The Glory of The Empire: A Novel, A History
Anka Muhlstein and Daniel Mendelsohn discuss The Glory of The Empire by Jean d’Ormesson (New York Review of Books), the rich and absorbing history of an extraordinary empire, at one point a rival to Rome. Rulers such as Basil the Great of Onessa, who founded the Empire but whose treacherous ways made him a byword for infamy, and the romantic Alexis the bastard, who dallied in the fleshpots of Egypt, studied Taoism and Buddhism, returned to save the Empire from civil war, and then retired “to learn to die,” come alive in The Glory of the Empire, along with generals, politicians, prophets, scoundrels, and others. Jean d’Ormesson also goes into the daily life of the Empire, its popular customs, and its contribution to the arts and the sciences, which, as he demonstrates, exercised an influence on the world as a whole, from the East to the West, and whose repercussions are still felt today. But it is all fiction, a thought experiment worthy of Jorge Luis Borges, and in the end The Glory of the Empire emerges as a great shimmering mirage, filling us with wonder even as it makes us wonder at the fugitive nature of power and the meaning of history itself. In English. Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary. Please note that seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis.
Daniel Mendelsohn was born in 1960 and studied Classics at the University of Virginia and at Princeton. His essays and reviews appear regularly in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review. His books include The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; a memoir, The Elusive Embrace; and two collections of critical essays, including Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, published by New York Review Books. He teaches literature at Bard College.
Anka Muhlstein is the author of biographies of Queen Victoria, James de Rothschild, and Cavelier de La Salle; studies on Catherine de Médicis, Marie de Médicis, and Anne of Austria; a double biography, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart; and most recently, Balzac’s Omelette and Monsieur Proust’s Library (Other Press). She won the Goncourt Prize for her biography of Astolphe de Custine, andhas twice received the History Prize of the Académie française. She and her husband, Louis Begley, are the authors of Venice for Lovers. They live in New York City. Her new book, The Pen and the Brush: How Passion for Art Shaped Nineteenth-Century French Novels, will be published in France this fall; an English translation will be available in the US in January 2017.