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I, Claudius (1934)
Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (14)
Robert Graves is one of the few writers to put an entry on both the Top 100 Fiction and Top 100 Non-Fiction lists. His WWI memoir Goodbye to All That made the latter list; his excellent historical novel I, Claudius made this one.
The great task facing any writer of historical fiction is to render his subjects accessible to a modern reader without sacrificing the authenticity of his period setting. Graves set a standard for other authors to shoot for with I Claudius. His Claudius manages to speak to us in a voice that we can readily comprehend even as we are transported to the Rome of the Caesars.
Claudius, afflicted with numerous physical ailments, seemed to his peers to be something of an idiot. Graves makes the case that these very infirmities, and the underestimation of his abilities by all but Augustus, enabled him to survive the mayhem and bloodshed of the reigns of his predecessors. Upon Caligula's assassination, Claudius was elevated to emperor almost as a joke, but he turned out to be one of the most capable of the Roman Emperors.
Graves tells the story of the years leading up to his ascension to the throne with great wit and verve in this archetypal historical novel.
See also:Robert Graves (3 books reviewed)
Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Novels
Library Journal: Top 150 of the Century
Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century
-Robert Graves Trust, Archive and Society
-Focus on Robert Graves and His Contemporaries
-etext of FAIRIES AND FUSILIERS (1918) by ROBERT GRAVES
-De Imperitoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors
-History of Western Civilization
-I, Claudius the film as history
If you liked I, Claudius, try: