Timo von Bock's release by the Czar from nine years' incarceration does not spell the end of the Baron's troubles: he is confined to his Livonian estate to live under the constant eye of police informers planted among his own household, and is subjected to endless humiliations. It is claimed that he is a madman and in need of 'protection': a man ...
Timo von Bock's release by the Czar from nine years' incarceration does not spell the end of the Baron's troubles: he is confined to his Livonian estate to live under the constant eye of police informers planted among his own household, and is subjected to endless humiliations. It is claimed that he is a madman and in need of 'protection': a man would need to be insane, after all, to have taken a Czar at his word when asked for a candid appraisal of the state's infirmities. From the year of his release from prison and return to his wife Eeva, a woman of peasant stock to whom, with her brother Jakob, he has given a solid education, the Baron's life is recorded in a secret journal by this same Jakob, a shrewd and observant house-guest. Reconstructing the events leading up to the Baron's incarceration in 1818 and subsequent to his release in 1827, Jakob little by little brings to light mysteries surrounding the 'Czar's madman'. Was his madness genuine? What was the secret understanding between him and his boon companion Czar Alexander I, who committed him to prison? In The Czar's Madman Jaan Kross weaves together the elements of intrigue surrounding those historical characters who survived in post-Napoleonic Russia, and by a skillful shifting of chronology and viewpoints, creates a superbly rich and moving narrative. Winner of France's Best Foreign Book Award.
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Publishers Weekly, 1992-10-26 The plot of Kross's first novel to appear in English may indeed ``most resemble the quick scene changes of Italian operas,'' as the narrator says, but this Estonian author's approach is provocative, original and highly political. Timo von Bock, a 19th-century Estonian baron possessed of romantic ideals, falls in love with and marries a peasant girl, the chambermaid of the young lady he had been expected to wed. He then frees the serfs on his estate and criticizes the czar in a letter--for which he is imprisoned. After nine years, he is declared mad and placed under house arrest at his estate, where his every movement is monitored by relatives and retainers loyal to the czar before the baron finally dies under mysterious circumstances. Timo's peasant brother-in-law, who has been educated by the von Bock family, narrates the proceedings in a deceptively measured, almost dry style that offsets the powerful emotions gripping all the characters. Kross (b. 1920his nationality is not given, nor is original language supplied/ fred jordan at pantheon says kross is estonian, wrote novel in estonian; see above/pre ), who spent nine years in Soviet labor camps, uses the cat-and-mouse games of Timo and his enemies to critique imperial Russia's relationship with its Baltic province and, by extension, the authoritarian regimes of our own times. (Jan.)
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