by John Williams, introduction by Daniel Mendelsohn
WINNER OF THE 1973 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
By the Author of Stoner
In Augustus, his third great novel, John Williams took on an entirely new challenge, a historical narrative set in classical Rome, exploring the life of the founder of the Roman Empire. To tell the story, Williams turned to the epistolary novel, a genre that was new to him, transforming and transcending it just as he did the western in Butcher's Crossing and the campus novel in Stoner. Augustus is the final triumph of a writer who has come to be recognized around the world as an American master.
The finest historical novel ever written by an American.
—The Washington Post
[In Augustus] John Williams re-creates the Roman Empire from the death of Julius Caesar to the last days of Augustus, the machinations of the court, the Senate, and the people, from the sickly boy to the sickly man who almost dies during expeditions to what would seem to be the ruthless ruler. He uses an epistolary format, and in the end all these voices, like a collage, meld together around the main character .... Read it in conjunction with Robert Graves's more flamboyant I, Claudius and Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian.
—Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation
A novel of extraordinary range, yet of extraordinary minuteness, that manages never to sacrifice one quality for the other.
Williams has fashioned an always engaging, psychologically convincing work of fiction—a consistent and well-realized portrait.
—Thomas Lask, The New York Times
Readers of both Stoner and Butcher's Crossing will here encounter an altogether new version of the John Williams they've come to know: Augustus is an epistolary novel set in classical Rome. It's a rare genius who can reinvent himself in his final work and earn high praise for doing so.
Augustus is gripping, brimming with life.
—Dan Piepenbring, The Paris Review Daily
This novel of an aged emperor will be intensely illuminating to anyone who is ready to put modern morality aside for a moment in order to acquire a little knowledge of himself or herself ... The genius of this astonishing American writer is that he shows how lives that seem utterly strange can be very like our own.
—John Gray, New Statesman