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Things Fall Apart...
am 16. Mai 2000
With painstaking detail and bittersweet humour, Tuchman delves into the history and events surrounding one of the greatest of the French knights. Enguerrand de Coucy is a knight caught between old and new world orders. Perhaps the highest example of a crumbling ideal - chivalry - he shows the fatal flaws in an oppressive system beginning to decay before his birth, leading to some of the greatest excesses within his lifetime, and finishing with the fall of the French monarchy in the 18th century.
Parts of Tuchman's tale are more gripping than an adventure novel, more humourous than a comedy, and more unbelievable than fiction. In fact, her story is so engaging because of its truth.
Anyone intersted in the Avignon Papacy, the Great Schism in the Church, Popes and Antipopes, the Black Plague, Feudalism, Protestantism, the persecution of witches and sorcery, the prelude to the Renaissance, Italian banking, Antisemitism, and the Medieval in general should adore it.
I must admit, my jaw dropped several times while reading this book, particularly during the chapters focusing on the schism in the church. It is not easy to escape the image of a furious Pope screaming anathema and excommunication from the walls of the Castel Sant'Angelo upon the beseigers below. Unbelievable arrogance and mercilessness seem the hallmark of the times, and Tuchman captures the essence of these with great alacrity.
Following de Coucy lets us experience life through the attitudes of someone placed firmly in the time. While many of his attitudes may seem foreign to us, his more modern qualities allow us to identify, if perhaps not sympathize, with him.
I highly recommend this book both as an introduction to the study of the 14th century, and as fascinating reading for anyone interested in the human condition.