The Last Cen­tu­rion

Bernard Schopen

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Baobab Press (FE­BRU­ARY) Soft­cover $17.95 (269pp) 978-1-936097-14-2

Sur­re­al­is­tic tones em­pha­size heavy ques­tions of em­pire-build­ing and cul­tural sub­sump­tion in this thought­ful ar­chae­ol­ogy novel.

Set in the cut­throat world of clas­si­cal ar­chae­ol­ogy, Bernard Schopen’s The Last Cen­tu­rion is a story in which the re­al­i­ties of mod­ern em­pires play out in the an­cient streets of Cam­bridge.

A devo­tee of Ro­man em­peror and philosopher Mar­cus Aure­lius, grad stu­dent Tad Fel­lows knows how to be a good soldier. He un­der­stands the world through obe­di­ence, loy­alty, honor, and other val­ues that his peers call an­ti­quated. Left as a rear guard to fin­ish cat­a­loging ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds, Fel­lows is thrust into the pol­i­tics of na­tion­al­ism as lo­cal lead­ers protest the up­com­ing trans­fer of ar­ti­facts to the United States.

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is the mum­mi­fied corpse of a Ro­man cen­tu­rion, for­ever stranded in a for­eign and hos­tile land. He be­comes a sym­bol of the cul­tural bul­ly­ing of the United States. Among hubris­tic and larger-than-life per­son­al­i­ties, Fel­lows ques­tions his val­ues as the machi­na­tions of the power play­ers be­come bloody.

From the broadly painted char­ac­ters to the con­stant pres­ence of a haunt­ing shadow, there’s a tone of height­ened re­al­ity through­out The Last Cen­tu­rion. It is ef­fec­tive at com­mu­ni­cat­ing the sur­re­al­ism of global pol­i­tics, as are char­ac­ters who em­body var­i­ous philoso­phies with­out verg­ing into one-di­men­sional char­ac­ter­i­za­tions.

Fel­lows’s life is de­fined by headaches, black­outs, para­noia, and a con­stant state of un­steadi­ness that is only mar­shaled by the con­cepts in Mar­cus Aure­lius’s writ­ing. Sur­re­al­is­tic tones em­pha­size nu­ances as Fel­lows comes to ask him­self what is re­ally hap­pen­ing.

The novel raises un­com­fort­able points, draw­ing com­par­isons be­tween the ex­pan­sion of the

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