Pompeii

ISBN: 0812974611
ISBN 13: 9780812974614
By: Robert Harris

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About this book

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.From the Hardcover edition.

Reader's Thoughts

Fahad

بومبي كيف تكتب عن كارثة؟ هذا هو السؤال الذي سيجابه أي كاتب روائي يحاول نزع الصفة الإخبارية عن كارثة ما، وإبراز الوجه الإنساني منها، مشكلة هذا النوع من الكتابة هو أن الكوارث ضخمة، معقدة في أسبابها وأحداثها وآثارها، ومتضمنة في داخلها الكثير من البشر، فلذا يلجأ الكتاب إلى الحيلة إياها، أي التركيز على وجوه من وجوه الكارثة، وجعله الصورة الكبيرة، أو الرمز للكارثة، وتعريف القارئ على عدد محدود من الشخصيات التي ستتعرض أو ستتأثر بهذه الكارثة، وعادة يتعرف بهم القارئ قبل حدوث الكارثة حتى يمكن له أن يبنى معهم علاقة عاطفية مبكرة، ويتفاعل مع معاناتهم فيما بعد. فكرت بهذا وأنا أفرغ من رواية الكاتب الإنجليزي روبرت هاريس (بومبي) والتي تناولت كارثة مدينة بومبي التي ضربها بركان جبل فيزوف في الرابع والعشرين من أغسطس سنة 79 م، مدمرا ً ودافنا ً إياها مع من بقي من سكانها. ما الذي ميز كارثة بومبي عن الكثير من الكوارث البركانية المماثلة؟ أمرين الأول هو أنها كانت كارثة منسية، حيث طوت الأرض المدينة وبقاياها لألفي عام حتى لحظة الكشف الأثري لها في القرن الثامن عشر، الأمر الثاني هو أن التنقيب الأثري لم يكشف فقط عن خرائب بومبي، وإنما عن شيء آخر أكثر إثارة، أجساد سكانها وقد تجمدوا بذات الوضعيات التي كانوا عليها في لحظاتهم الأخيرة، بهذا الكشف قفزنا زمنيا ً إلى لحظة الكارثة، إلى اليوم الأخير والدقائق الأخيرة قبل أن تطمر بومبي بالمقذوفات البركانية والرماد، اقترب إنسان العصر الحديث كثيرا ً من تلكم الكارثة، أقرب من أي كارثة أخرى، وصار يمكنه أن يعيد تركيبها ومشاهدتها – وهذا ما فعلته قناة الـ BBC في فيلمها الوثائقي (Pompeii: The Last Day) حيث تم تركيب قصة درامية تحاول الاستفادة من وضعيات الجثث في تركيب قصة ذلك اليوم، حيث نشاهد أسرة تتجمع حول ابنتها الحامل، وسيدة غنية هربت إلى منزل مجالدين وماتت هناك -.كانت هذه بومبي المدينة والكارثة والآن لنتحدث عن بومبي الرواية. لا تبدأ رواية بومبي لروبرت هاريس في بومبي بل في مدينة ميسينيوم التي تقع على الجهة المقابلة من خليج نابولي، عند عنق الحذاء الإيطالي، وكل تلكم المدن المتقاربة بومبي، ميسينيوم، هيراكولوم، أوبلونتس، ستابيي ونولا كانت مدن رومانية، تابعة لسلطة القيصر الروماني حينها تيتوس، وكانت كلها تحصل على المياه من القناة المائية (أكوا أوغوستا) التي أنشأها الإمبراطور أغسطس. يصل إلى مدينة ميسينيوم المهندس – يلقب بالساقي في ذلكم - (ماركوس أتيليوس بريموس) قادما ً من روما، ليتولى مسئولية القناة خلفا ً للساقي السابق اكزومينوس الذي اختفى فجأة. هذه المهمة تواجه اختبارها الأول سريعا ً حيث تبدأ المياه في النضوب من الخزان الرئيسي لمسينيوم، مترافقة مع رائحة كبريت، عندها ينطلق أتيليوس مع فريق من تابعيه للبحث عن سبب هذا العطل بعدما توقع وفقا ً لأخبار سمعها من بعض القادمين إلى ميسينيوم أن موقع العطل قريب من مدينة بومبي، هذه المهمة التي تبدو روتينية تتم في اليوم السابق لكارثة بومبي، وتمنح أتيليوس وتمنحنا وتمنح الكاتب فرصة استعراض مدينة بومبي في أيامها الأخيرة، حيث نكتشف حجم الفساد السياسي والمالي للمدينة، وسيطرة إمبلياتوس على مجلس المدينة، وهو عبد سابق أعتقه سيده وأثرى بعد الزلزال الأخير الذي ضرب المدينة قبل سنوات، حيث بقي إمبلياتوس وقام ببناء المدينة من جديد مستخدما ً كل الأساليب الممكنة، وأحد هذه الأساليب كان الحصول على المياه الرخيصة من القناة، عن طريق صفقة كان قد أبرمها مع الساقي السابق اكزومينوس، ولكن مع اختفاء هذا الأخير، واحتلال أتيليوس منصبه، يعرض عليه إمبلياتوس الصفقة ذاتها، يرفض أتيليوس العرض بأنفة، فيمده إمبلياتوس بالمساعدة التي يحتاجها في مهمة إصلاح القناة ولكنه يخطط في الوقت نفسه للقضاء عليه بعد إنجاز المهمة. ينطلق أتيليوس ويتمكن من إصلاح القناة بمساعدة تابعيه والعبيد الذين قدمهم له إمبلياتوس، ولأن موقع العطل كان قريبا ً من جبل فيزوف يكونون شهودا ً على بداية ثورة البركان، حيث يهرع العبيد عائدين إلى بومبي ترافقهم كوريليا ابنة إمبلياتوس والتي كانت قد فرت من منزل والدها الذي يحاول إجبارها على الزواج من ابن مالكه السابق وعضو مجلس المدينة، وجاءت إلى أتيليوس لتنذره مما يضمره والدها له، ولكن أتيليوس يقنعها بالعودة إلى المنزل وقبول حياتها رغم مشاعره تجاهها، يتعرض أتيليوس بعد هذا لمحاولة قتل ينجو منها، فيعود إلى مدينة ميسينوم حيث قائد الأسطول الروماني والمؤرخ العجوز المهتم بالطبيعيات بليني والذي يقود حملة إنقاذ، مصطحبا ً معه كاتبه، مقدما ً وصفا ً شاملا ً للحادثة، جعلت ذلكم الشكل من الانفجار البركاني يسمى الآن في علم البراكين بالثوران البليني، حملة بليني تفشل سريعا ً، وتجنح السفن التي جاء بها إلى مدينة ستابيي وتكون نهاية بليني هناك، ولكن وصفه والأوراق التي كتبها عبده خلال الرحلة تصل إلى يد ابن أخت بليني والمعروف تاريخيا ً باسم بليني الأصغر. يغادر أتيليوس - قبل هذه النهاية الحزينة لبليني - الحملة عائدا ً إلى بومبي على قدميه مخاطرا ً بحياته، كل هذا لينقذ كوريليا من المصير الذي ساقها إليه بكلماته ونصائحه، وبالفعل يلتقي بها هناك والمدينة تعيش الكارثة بتفاصيلها المرعبة، وينجح في إنقاذها من جنون والدها الذي احتجز العائلة كلها في مشروع الحمامات العامة الذي كان يقيمه مراهنا ً على أن المدينة ستنجو من هذه الأزمة كما نجت من أزمة الزلزال السابق، وأنه سيعود منتصرا ً وغنيا ً مرة أخرى، ينهي هاريس روايته بأسطورة نلمح منها إمكانية نجاة أتيليوس وكوريليا وخروجهما سالمين من بومبي باستخدام القناة المائية. الرواية فاقت توقعاتي بقوتها، وأسرتني فيها شخصيات أتيليوس وبليني، حتى شخصية إمبلياتوس الكريهة رسمها هاريس بطريقة ذكية ورائعة، للأسف لم تترجم لهذا الروائي أي روايات أخرى، رغم أن له عدد لا بأس به منها، وخاصة في الجانب التاريخي، فله مثلا ً:- رواية (Fatherland 1992): وهي من روايات التاريخ البديل، حيث يتخيل الكاتب كيف سيكون العالم لو أن ألمانيا النازية انتصرت في الحرب العالمية الثانية، الرواية كانت من الروايات الأفضل مبيعا ً في بريطانيا بثلاثة ملايين نسخة.- (Archangel 1998): عن مذكرات ستالين المفقودة.- (The Ghost 2007): وهي رواية غموض سياسية حولت إلى فيلم بعنوان (The Ghost Writer 2010) أخرجه رومان بولانسكي، وأداه إيوان مكريجور، وبيرس بروسنان.- وأخيرا ً ثلاثيته عن الخطيب الروماني شيشرون والتي صدر منها حتى الآن جزأين هما (Imperium 2006) و (Lustrum/Conspirata 2009)

Reinhold

Natürlich geht es bei Pompeji letztlich um den wohl bekanntesten Vulkanausbruch der Menschheitsgeschichte, bei dem der Vesuv im Jahr 79 n. Chr. ebendiese Stadt vollkommen unter Asche und Lava begrub. Dennoch geht Harris einen sehr interessanten Weg und lässt eine Handlung entstehen, in der zunächst der Ausbruch des Vulkans nur in Vorzeichen angedeutet wird. Die meiste Energie geht stattdessen in die Erzählung über einen Aquarius (den Bauer und Pfleger von Aquädukten), der sich darum kümmern soll die abgeschnittene Wasserleitung wieder in Gang zu setzen, die von Vorboten des Unglücks unterbrochen wurde. An Nebenschauplätzen werden die Lebensgewohnheiten der damaligen Zeit hervorragend dargestellt - Harris lässt das erste nachchristliche Jahrhundert wieder auferstehen. Und natürlich kommt auch eine Liebesgeschichte nicht zu kurz. Sehr schön fand ich auch den Schluss, der sich die befürchtete Kitschszene ersparte.Auch sprachlich ist Harris ein wirklich hervorstechendes Werk gelungen, seine Sätze haben die Kraft des ausbrechenden Vulkans. Ebenso ist das Werk stilistisch sehr gut gearbeitet, so setzt Harris Vor- und Rückblenden sehr geschickt ein um der Geschichte den nötigen Pepp zu verleihen. Nebenbei spinnt er auch noch eine Geschichte um das Thema Korruption ein, die für Spannung sorgt. Interessant sind die vor jedem Kapitel angeführten Fakten und Zitate zu Vulkanen, die dem ganzen Werk eine weitere Aufwertung geben, denn um dem Genre des historischen Romans treu zu bleiben erlaubt sich Harris keine Anachronismen, und so muss er moderne Beschreibungen vom Text abtrennen.Die Charaktere sind sehr gut beschrieben und glaubwürdig dargestellt. Trotz des zwangsläufig am äußeren Geschehen orientierten Handlungsverlaufes, macht sich Harris die Mühe seinen Personen Charakter, Tiefe und Glaubwürdigkeit zu verleihen, eine zweifellos wertvolle Herangehensweise an das Thema. Es gibt keine nennenswerten Ausrutscher oder Schwächen, weshalb man das Buch nur uneingeschränkt empfehlen kann - vorausgesetzt der geneigte Leser erwartet sich nicht Action pur.

Bruce

Think you have pressure at work? Consider Marcus Attilius Primus. He just received an important promotion from Rome. The young engineer is now the Aquarius, in charge of the immense aqueduct serving the entire bay of Naples. His predecessor has mysteriously disappeared. His workers are surly. The water supply is interrupted. And then he gets on the wrong side of one of the richest men around, a cruel former slave, the behind-the-scenes political boss of Pompeii. Of course, he does have a very beautiful daughter who appeals to Attilius for help.There’s trouble bubbling up for our hero, and it’s not just political corruption, bribes, missing persons, and bad plumbing. There’s something very strange about the high, flat-topped mountain close to the aqueduct. Odd rumblings, strange gases, and earth tremors have been coming from Vesuvius in the past few days. This is a disaster thriller that will keep you flipping the pages late into the night. Will the hero be able to save the heroine, or will she need to save him, or is everyone going to end up toast in the explosive conclusion?

Sam Quixote

The waters have stopped flowing from the aquedect - who you gonna call? Dambusters! The water engineer heads out amid widespread corruption in Pompeii, thwarts a murder plot, finds out what happened to his predecessor, falls in love, and investigates the ominous rumbling from the nearby Vesuvius. Sounds good no? Harris is good at building up the air of menace in the days preceding the eruption. Every action can be looked at as minor compared to the devastation coming and he really does a great job of creating an atmosphere of anticipation in the reader. He's also done a great job at recreating the feel of living in Roman times, as well as supplying a lot of information on Roman aqueducts giving you a sense of awe and genius for the Roman Empire. Where he falls down though is in the characterisation. Attilius, the engineer, is the hero. He's a stoic, good looking gent who sends his pay home to his mother and sister in Rome. He doesn't take bribes, he's hardworking, and is disliked for his strict attention to detail (all for the good of Rome naturally). He's so perfect in fact that he's boring. But he's not alone. A equally dreary love interest is introduced who meets the engineer no more than 3 times briefly but over the course of those 3 encounters the reader is supposed to buy that they have fallen madly in love and would die for each other. The whole reason for the engineer to rush back to Pompeii after escaping it is because of this love interest and as such everything feels very contrived. It's this lack of convincing that stops the reader in their tracks because there's no real reason, once the eruptions start, to care what the engineer's motivations are. He's a paper thin cardboard cut out and so is his love interest. So what? The third act also falls down. Harris does a great job of setting the scene but once Vesuvius erupts he somehow manages to make it boring. For a thriller to fail in the third act is not a good sign and I could quite easily put the book down and do anything else. It's not a bad novel by any means it just seems trite at times which spoils the overall effect. Harris has obviously done his research, it's just a shame the same effort didn't go into making an interesting enough scenario to take place during this immense natural disaster or characters worth caring about.

Robb

I'm always curious how an author (or a director in the case of Titanic) is going to take a situation about whose tragic outcome we are already aware and attempt to render it nevertheless suspenseful and narratively driving, and Robert Harris succeeds here beyond all expectation. In terms of books that have made an indelible impression on my memory in the recent past, this is at the top of the list. For pure force of visualization, detail that is not only brilliant and vivid - and bone-chilling - in its own right but that is also completely in service to the story, I have a hard time recalling a piece of writing so taut and well-executed. The pacing is near perfection. The mix between real and imagined characters - all equally well imagined - has the effect of giving them all a wonderfully tangible life. And I think Harris actually managed to leave me, going forward, picturing death itself as hovering a bit on the periphery of my life like the chillingly impersonal fireball spewing mountain in the near distance that is Vesuvius in this book. If I have one minor cavil it is that the book in a couple of brief asides a little too pointedly breaks its poker face, revealing itself to be clearly inspired by the political and historical obtuseness of the George W. Bush years. But of course for that I forgive him.

Nancy (Hrdcovers)

POMPEII.....BEFORE AND AFTERAfter visiting Pompeii, on a recent trip to Rome, I was eager to read something about that fateful day in August,79 AD, when Mt. Vesuvius erupted suffocating an entire city with ash and rocks. If you've been to Pompeii, you've probably left there with an eerie feeling and a desire to learn more. This was the impetus in my searching out some historical fiction surrounding this event and Robert Harris' book looked like it might be the right one for me. Based on all the other reviews here, I think I'm in the minority in saying that I really wasn't that drawn to this book. When I'm reading a good book, I can't wait to get back to it. I found myself putting off picking this one up again and again and ended up taking more time to read it than I usually do with a book this size. I will say, however, that the second half was much better than the first half. While I found it interesting how the eventual catastrophe was foreshadowed by blockages in the water system, I just found the beginning descriptions so tedious. After seeing what still remains of the town, I was able to clearly picture the streets and the stores and the homes of the Roman inhabitants having walked around this same town myself. I guess when you're reading a book where you know the eventual outcome, it takes some of the bite out of it for me and I'm probably being too critical of a book that I just thought could have been better. One thing I will say with some certainty is that I'm glad I didn't live during this time of overall decadence. Some of it really sickened me.

Liza Perrat

Well-written, action packed account of the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius. Very informative, with well-formed characters. I was sorry to reach the end.

melydia

I'm not usually much for historical fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It is the well-known story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but told from a slightly different perspective: the engineer of the aqueduct, dealing with a drought, a pipe blockage, and strange smells of sulfur in the water. In addition to the science (which I found fascinating - Roman technology was amazing), there is plenty of personal and political intrigue to keep the plot rolling along. This fun little book made me want to learn more about Pompeii and the Roman Empire, which says a lot, considering I'd never given them much thought outside the occasional History Channel documentary. Definitely recommended if you're in the mood for some good historical fiction.

Ben

Volcano stories are never really about volcanoes, just like shark stories are never about sharks, and zombie stories are not about the shambling hordes, but the few that cower from them. Sadly, this volcano story IS about a volcano--or rather it is about the volcano-related research that the author did in order to write it. It's full of sentences like, "They could feel the warmth from the hypocaust, a clever Roman heating system that worked like this..." in which you can feel how Harris is dying to tell you about this cool thing from ancient times. I'm all for cool things from ancient times, but it takes a great writer of historical fiction to make the details seamless, and this one doesn't fit the bill. (Disclosure: I made up that sentence, and it's a bit of an exaggeration, but not too much.)Story-wise, Harris devised a pretty great premise, and then proceeded to march it forward step by deliberate step, occasionally prodding at it with something sharp, until it was devoured by pumice and ash and noxious gasses in the final 50 pages.That premise is: Something is wrong with the aqueduct that services the towns around the Bay of Naples, and tenderfoot engineer Marcus Attilius is dispatched from Rome to investigate. The previous hydro-engineer, or "aquarius," has vanished without a trace, and it is all quite mysterious. Except that it isn't. The mystery is neither very complex nor very interesting, even to a reader who like me who NEVER figures out whodunnit and never sees the twist coming. In this case, there is no twist; the answer to everything is volcanoes.But it's Attilius himself who is the real ball-and-chain of this book. If I had to describe his personality, I'd say...he doesn't have one? I guess he's kind of serious and stoic, humorless, not a good leader of men, not especially bright (though Harris seems to want you to think he is). He has a dead wife, which feels like something from the Instant Characterization Toolbox. "What's that? Nothing interesting about the character? I don't know [rummages through toolbox] here, give him this dead wife!"Attilius's job in this book is not to be a person, but to convey the story forward. His job is to stay on the path, to go where Harris needs him to go. Go where the action is, fix the aqueduct, meet Pliny, visit Pompeii before and after, and so on. He's an unmanned drone taking us on a tour.All that said, this isn't the worst way to pass the time. It is competently written, largely devoid of hideously amateur genre prose, and it's about ancient Rome, so it can't be all bad. If you've been to Pompeii, that will probably help. Harris's descriptions certainly do recall the place in recognizable ways. But this is no "I, Claudius." You'd be better off re-reading that.

Anne

I enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and had a compelling story. It surrounded the Aquarius Attilius who was an expert in the knowledge of the aqueducts which had been built by Roman engineering around the Italian penninsula. The aquiduct near the towns of Pompeii and Misena have stopped working and he is sent from Rome to investigate. He is thrust in the middle of the people of this region as he works to find out why the Augusta aqueduct had run down to a trickle. But he faces enemies who do not want him to succeed and rich lazy people in the town of Pompeii who do not support what he is doing. I especially liked the ending.

Brian

Just days before the eruption of Vesuvius, the engineer Attilius arrives in Pompeii to take charge of the aqueduct that provides water for all the communities dotted around the Bay of Naples. Pompeii is a bustling town whose inhabitants are busy making money and enjoying themselves. They have no idea of the imminent disaster that will overtake them.But the novel is not primarily concerned with that eruption, at least not until the climax. Before that happens, Harris cleverly weaves a human story around the historical events. The previous water-engineer has disappeared without trace; his disappearance seems to be tied up with the dealings of a freed slave who has become a millionaire and is bankrolling Pompeii's magistrates; the millionaire's daughter, who is trapped in a loveless betrothal, reminds the engineer painfully of his dead wife. The result is an extraordinarily gripping thriller. It doesn’t matter that we know how the novel will end. The reader is caught up in the struggle of the two young people to make sense of what is taking place all around them and to take control of their own lives. The writing is muscular and the pace compelling but not at the expense of detail: Harris really brings the sights, smells, tastes and even the table-manners of the Ancient World to life.The characters are believable, sympathetic and entirely authentic. In particular, there’s a marvellous portrait of Pliny the Elder, the Admiral of the Fleet who witnessed the eruption and described it in meticulous detail. I shall never think of him as a dusty Latin writer again.

Rachael

I read a review of this in The Atlantic Monthly a couple of years back that was quite favorable. What I found most intriguing about the book was the perspective of the main protagonist (an engineer trying to ascertain why the water flowing through the aqueducts was poisonous and dropping rapidly). Harris's writing here is much better than it is in Imperium; it's a fascinating read with lots of interesting historical notes and a riveting chronicle of the actual explosion.With that said, there's some fairly disturbing sexual content, primarily disturbing in that it's not taking place between people who love each other. So if you decide to read this, be prepared to skip paragraphs!

Lily

I read this book after doing the archaeological excavation at Pompeii and found it to be very realistic in it's portrayal of life in the city before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. This book is centered around a geologist and hydraulic engineer that are researching they mystery of why the water in Pompeii isn't flowing like it should. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone that has visited the ruins of Pompeii or the Roman Empire or is interested in the day to day life of people living almost 2000 years ago.

Slayermel

I think If I had seen this book on a shelf in the store I would have walked right past it, so thank goodness I found it on a phone booth. It seemed interesting enough from the back cover, and then there was the added excitement that it came from bookcrossing. So i thought what the hell I'll give it a try.I'm so happy I did, what a great Suspense novel. The story is exciting and fast paced. I could not put it down. The characters are very well developed and you can't help but to feel for them. There are some parts in the book that can be disturbing and then there are others where you just want to cry. A brief description of the plot without giving anything away is that the story is centred around Mount Vesuvius and the Aqua Augusta the worlds greatest aqueduct, and it has stopped flowing. There are many warning signs as to why, but the people of Pompeii & Herculaneum continue to live their lives as if nothing is happening, while a young engineer is trying to piece together what happened to a missing man and why the aqua Augusta has stopped flowing.

Michael

In 79 AD, a new Aquarius is appointed to the area around Pompeii. There has been a water shortage in the cities around Pompeii and Marcus Attilius Primus is sent to find the problem and correct it.Attilius begins to investigate a possible fault in the aqueduct while certain officials try to stop him becuase they fear he will learn that they have manipulated the water for their own profit.There is excellent drama as the action begins two days before Veseuveus errupts. Attilius investigates the problem as his life becomes more and more in danger.This is a highly entertaining story that shows the author's detailed research into the times and life in the city of Pompeii. We become interested in the history as the characters come to life and a momentous disaster looms.

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