Famed for his lyrical, subversive voice, Catullus was Rome's first and foremost poet. Amid the death of the Roman Republic, his life, as told through his poetry, was beset with love, loss, political conflict and, above all, a desire for escape.
Catullus' Bedspread follows the young poet's journey from his native Verona to Rome, filled with the all indulgences and sexual social mores of the time, and then his lasting affair with the married Clodia, whom he would immortalise in his poetry.
While Catullus and Clodia made love in the shadows, the whole of Italy was quaking as Caesar, Pompey and Crassus forged a doomed allegiance. When the older Clodia in turn betrayed Catullus for another man, the result was his greatest work, 'Poem 64': the wonderful, mythical tale of a sorrowful marriage and a lover's desertion, told through a picture on a bedspread.
For a year Catullus turned his back on Rome, Italy and love. In his journey of escapism he encountered new geography, new cultures and, at last, an understanding that there was no escape, that yearning for the past, recent or ancient is futile. Following a brush with the might of Caesar and a cunning evasion, Catullus died at the age of just 30.
Drawing on his peerless poetry and turbulent circumstances, Daisy Dunn's immediate narrative rediscovers Catullus the man, Rome's most modern poet - oscillating between the glorious past and the vivid, sensual present.
"A haunting reminder of how little humanity has changed over two thousand years and a moving introduction to the greatest love poet of all time." (Robert Harris)
"Lyrical, playful and startlingly original.... Breathes extraordinary new life into the classical world. An unforgettable journey into the high art and low life of ancient Rome." (Dan Jones)
"Simultaneously imaginative and learned, Daisy Dunn has written the perfect introduction to Catullus and his world." (Tom Holland)
"For all those of us who love counting stars none burns brighter in the literary firmament than that of Gaius Valerius Catullus - Daisy Dunn's brilliant new biography of the Roman master will shine beams of light on his darkly passionate poetry." (Professor Paul Cartledge)
"Dunn succeeds through a confection of history, literary criticism and imaginative travelogue. She is an appreciative and observant guide, pointing to continuities in the landscape and teasing out ancient allusions. There are fascinating digressions.... Dunn's prose is Catullan in its versatility: she can be deliciously coarse and...lyrical. She marshals the poems into a life story, yet retains something of their fluidity, reflecting the structure of Catullus's collection - neither chronological nor entirely thematic, but hardly random either. Like a good music album. Not since Nicola Shulman's 'Graven with Diamonds' has literary criticism seemed so thrilling. An imaginative, enriching and quick-witted book reminds us that Catullus is a poet for all time." (Standpoint)
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By D. Menashy on 10-03-16
It's a Classic...
Amazing to found myself so immersed in Catullus' world 2000 years after he lived and wrote. We are fortunate that a single copy of his poetry was discovered in the 13th century, thus allowing Catullus' poetry to live on through the Ages. Fortunate also that Ms. Dunn brings his world and work so much to life; she nicely teases out his life story, citing the clues borne in his writing and that of contemporaries.
Very well delivered by Mike Grady whose rich tones enhance the poetry extracts; the final reading in full of Catullus' poem 64 is both rewarding and moving.
I do complain however that the physical book comes with maps, notes and illustrations; I feel Audible should contrive to make these available to purchasers of audiobooks too.
Anyway, highly recommended if you have a penchant for the Classical world - plus if you ever go to Verona (via Catullus Airport!) you'll all the more appreciate a trip to Lake Garda and Sirmione.