A biography of Gaius Valerius Catullus, Rome's first great poet, a dandy who fell in love with another man's wife and made it known to the world through his timeless verse.
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.
"An amazing mixture of pacey biography and first rate literary analysis. Rome's most famous bad boy poet comes alive as never before. Stunning." (Boris Johnson)
"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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It's a Classic...
- D. Menashy