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This comes closer to (Univ. of N. Ca. -- 1948) than to anything else has written. He again provides a portrait of a period- that of the Crucifixion and of the unwanted stationed in a remote and unpopular outpost of a vast empire. His story canters on beautiful and somewhat feared granddaughter of the self exiled married for convenience to Pontius Pilate; and on her lover, the Centurion Longinus, assigned to spy on Herod, Pilate -- and Claudia, for the powerful Sejan in Rome. It is a tale of leering acceptance of immorality, so long as the pocketbook is not affected and one has neither respect nor liking for any of the principals in the story. The gradual awareness of the widening concern of the Jews with the new spiritual leaders, first John the Baptist (the grim scene of his death which was a highlight in is again dramatized here), then Jesus of Nazareth, impinges only peripherally on Claudi and longinus, until Claudia's disturbing dreams at the time when Jesus is brought before Pilate and Longin is assigned to the execution detail make them part of the final scene. But at no moment in the novel is the reader moved. The long passages of philosophical analysis as Cornelius, a fellow officer, attempts to persuade Longinus to give due regard to Jesus, his teachings and his miracles- and Longinus refuses- seem simply rhetorical exercises. A somewhat cheap attempt to modernize a story that needs no such handling.

Pub Date: July 24th, 1961
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston