Captivity by György SpiróCaptivity by György Spiró


byGyörgy SpiróTranslated byTim Wilkinson

Paperback | October 11, 2016

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Captivity is a complex and fast-paced tale of Jewish life in the early first century, a sort of sword-and-sandals saga as reimagined by Henry Roth. The narrative follows Uri from Rome to Jerusalem and back, from prospectless dreamer to political operative to pogrom survivor—who along the way also happens to dine with Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate and get thrown into a cell with a certain Galilean rabble-rouser. Hungarian György Spiró’s deft combination of philosophical inquiry and page-turning brio should overcome that oft-mentioned American timidity toward books in translation.” The Wall Street Journal, Best Books of 2015

A literary sensation, György Spiró’s Captivity is both a highly sophisticated historical novel and a gripping page-turner. Set in the tumultuous first century A.D., between the year of Christ’s death and the outbreak of the Jewish War, Captivity recounts the adventures of the feeble-bodied, bookish Uri, a young Roman Jew.

Frustrated with his hapless son, Uri’s father sends the young man to the Holy Land to regain the family’s prestige. In Jerusalem, Uri is imprisoned by Herod and meets two thieves and (perhaps) Jesus before their crucifixion. Later, in cosmopolitan Alexandria, he undergoes a scholarly and sexual awakening—but must also escape a pogrom. Returning to Rome at last, he finds an entirely unexpected inheritance.

Equal parts Homeric epic, brilliantly researched Jewish history, and picaresque adventure, Captivity is a dramatic tale of family, fate, and fortitude. In its weak-yet-valiant hero, fans will be reminded of Robert Graves’ classics of Ancient Rome, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
Born in 1946 in Budapest, award-winning dramatist, novelist, and translator György Spiró has earned a reputation as one of postwar Hungary’s most prominent and prolific literary figures. He teaches at ELTE University of Budapest, where he specializes in Slavic literatures. Tim Wilkinson gave up his job in the pharmaceutical industry to...
Title:CaptivityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:896 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.6 inPublished:October 11, 2016Publisher:Restless BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1632061414

ISBN - 13:9781632061416


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Worthwhile read from a historical standpoint I bought this book based on someone recommending it as a good, long read. It seemed to be incredibly well-researched and was full of detail, so much so that the story often became bogged down in it. The story itself was okay though the main character was difficult--he seemed to have frequent wild shifts in opinion/outlook without reason. Overall, I enjoyed the book for its historical perspective and it spurred me to read more about that time period.
Date published: 2017-11-03

Editorial Reviews

“Intensively researched.… The book’s major strengths are its vast scope and its depictions of the nitty-gritty of daily life.… Spiró weaves a tremendous amount of research into his dense fiction. The payoff is a deep immersion for the reader.…  I never wanted to put the book aside.… Spiró is wonderful at depicting the flowing, overlapping nature of religious and other traditions two thousand years ago. To read his book is to gain a deep perspective into human nature and the roots of much of today’s Western civilization. Passionate and academic, overflowing with detail, thoroughly engrossing, it’s a powerful, important work. Tim Wilkinson, a past PEN/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize winner, has done a great service to modern literature by tackling this behemoth of a novel.” —Jon Sobel, Blogcritics