CreationPosted: March 19, 2019
Vintage, 587 pages, August 22, 2018 (2002 reprint)
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon paperback $17.95
Back in the 1980’s I tried to get going with Gore Vidal’s then-new book Creation. It is a novel narrated by a fictional grandson of Zoroaster, and is presented as a rebuttal to the Histories of Herodotus from a Persian perspective. I remember having a hardcover copy and trying to read it. I just couldn’t get excited about it.
Recently, however, I had been reading some nonfiction and I wanted a change. I downloaded the Kindle sample of Creation and found the book quite book quite interesting. It turns out that this is an expanded version published in 2002. It seems that an overzealous editor underestimated the interest of the average Vidal reader (or perhaps the average fiction reader) in the details of life, ritual, and philosophy in the ancient world and cut a good deal of what he considered to be minutia. That’s all restored in the 2002 edition.
The narrator is Cyrus Spitima, the fictional grandson of the Persian prophet Zoroaster. He is portrayed as being part of the royal family and a close friend to and the same age as the eventual emperor Xerxes. He is sent to India by Xerxes’s father Darius and to China by Xerxes. In the course of his travels he meets the Buddha, Lao Tze, and Confucius. Now of course it’s not entirely clear that the three actually lived at the same time, or in fact, that the first two existed at all. But this Vidal’s way of incorporating Eastern religion and philosophy into an entertaining novel.
In the end the book was probably over-long and in fact I ended up skimming the last quarter of it. Ultimately, though, I believe it was worth my time.