Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Robert Harris' new book about Peter Mandelson. Kind of.

Robert Harris is a talented and prolific fiction writer and the proud author of Enigma, Archangel and the superb Fatherland (highly recommended). Harris is a former political journalist, who also must have a deep and extensive interest in history; all of his fictional work are set against a historic context, and often around the Second World War, or related areas and epochs.

In Lustrum, the second volume in Harris' Cicero trilogy, the protagonist is modelled on our very own Peter Mandelson; the book is even dedicated to "Peter". This is what the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins had to say about the comparison between the old Roman politician and Lord Mandelson:

"The most Mandelsonian moment for me is when Cicero (as he did in real life) buys a house on the Palatine, the most expensive quartier of the city, where politicians and aristocrats such as the famously rich Crassus and the famously posh Quintus Lutatius Catulus lived in beautiful houses with unrivalled views (as an estate agent might say) of the Forum.

The house cost Cicero 3.5m sesterces (a great deal of money), and he controversially borrowed 2m from Publius Cornelius Sulla, who was suspected of being part of the Catiline conspiracy, the very conspiracy that Cicero famously crushed. This was a decision – without wanting to spoil Harris' plot – that came back to bite Cicero in the bottom.

It's impossible not to be reminded of Mandelson's ill-fated loan from the millionaire Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson of £373,000 to buy a house in Notting Hill – which led to his disgrace and resignation from the Government in 1998. Mandelson shares one other characteristic with Cicero: he's a tenacious piece of work, and he's pretty good at coming back from disaster".

Read the full article here

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