Historical fiction accepts limitations as to time, but works like Creation have freed the genre from the constraints of geography. This classic novel has been reissued, including a previously cut section that ties East and West together across the 5th Century B.C. Cyrus Spitama, the fictional grandson of Zoroaster who narrates, ranges from Greece to Cathay, meeting such leaders as Pericles, Darius, King Bimbisara and Lord Huan. More importantly, he converses with wise men such as the self-involved Buddha, the skeptical and frustrated Confucius, the unquestioning and self-satisfied Lao-Tse, and Socrates, as poor a philosopher as he was a stonemason in the view of the narrator. Spitama serves as an ambassador for a series of Persian Great Kings, starting with Darius, who “dreamed of cows,” the Indo-Aryan symbol for wealth.
The restored section, “The Burning of Sardis,” helps to clarify the novel’s perspective. Spitama, half Mede and half Greek but a product of the Persian Empire, looks on Greeks as devious inhabitants of a cultural and military backwater. Events like Salamis and Marathon, so central and triumphant from a Greek perspective, are treated as sideshows hindering what would have been the more logical and lucrative conquests of wealthy India and fragmented China.
This powerful novel combines adventure, wisdom and humor in an imaginative historical mix. The restored chapters lend resonance and add another reason to read this masterpiece by one of our greatest living historical novelists.