The publishers are calling this a novel, but don't believe it. Rocquet is a professor of aesthetics and art history at L`Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, and if anything this book seems more like an Annales-school reconstruction of unrecorded cultural history than anything approaching fiction. Bruegel is a frustrating case for us, so great the master with nearly nothing solidly, writtenly remembered about him--and so Rocquet must fall back on re-creating the atmospheres of 16th- century Europe that the painter fed off, the historical contexts, and descriptions of the paintings themselves. All these fallbacks he utilizes, but in a pedantic, overblown manner (he quotes, at length, straight from one of the few contemporaneous accounts of the time we do have, Guicciardini's Description of All the Lowlands) that never for an instant belies an imaginative author. And the mass of visual descriptions of the paintings and drawings- -which certainly we'd rather see than hear about--doesn't at all satisfy in place of some attempt to dramatize the impulse, psyche, and porousness that would make up a great painter's life. Hypothetical, dry. As a painter-biography-treated-as-fiction, this by comparison makes someone like Irving Stone read like Dickens.