Translated from the original Dutch by Sam Garrett
In the port of Alexandria, a very long time ago, Julius Caesar impregnated and then abandoned Cleopatra. The child of their union – groomed for greatness by his devoted mother but destined for tragedy – was called Caesarion. Little Caesar.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce. In our time, another boy, Ludwig, is born in Alexandria and again the father flees the scene of the birth. The boy and his mother are soon obliged to move on. She, Marthe, is stormy, impetuous and vain. She will not rest until she finds their ideal home – which needs to be both dramatic and cheap. And so Ludwig and his mother end up on a clifftop in Suffolk in a house being eaten from the inside by woodworm and eroded from the outside by the waves attacking its foundations. In the hours mother and son spend together preening in front of the dressing-table mirror, a melodramatic intensity is born. But this stormy novel does not develop as you might then predict. Instead it opens out into a page-turning exploration of the power of the absent parent versus the power of the too-present parent. And it moves between Cartagena in the Caribbean and Viennese crypts, the rugby pitch and the chemotherapy ward, LA and London, the Mediterranean and the Pacific, as Ludwig’s gifts as a pianist open the world up.
Caesarion is a novel that asks how anyone can ever know for sure how to be the right parent for their child, and how any child can know how to let themselves be parented. It is a beautiful, strong and brave novel. It confirms Tommy Wieringa as a storyteller of great range and real distinction.
About the Author
Tommy Wieringa was born in 1967 and grew up partly in the Netherlands, partly in the tropics. He began his writing career with travel stories and journalism and is the author of two previous novels, one of which was awarded Holland’s Halewijn prize and nominated for the AKO Literature Prize.
An inventive, multi-layered novel, charting the childhood and youth of Ludwig (Caesarion) an Egyptian born with distinctly unusual parents, very enjoyable.