Why we can call ourselves pagans
In choosing to recount the life of Julian, Vidal is singing a hymn to the values of the ancient world. The emperor, speaking through the pages of an imaginary diary, throws a sore and sorry glance upon the deadly intrigues at court. Every occasion is an opportunity to mock the young but powerful Church, engaged in internal struggles between opposing “heresies”. The novel, extremely rigorous in its historical reconstruction, is a manifesto against the dishonesty of fanaticism. The distinctive touch of irony running through the book makes it a pleasant read as it portrays a disenchanted, but also nostalgic age of transition. We, descendants of that age, are asked the question: would we be Christians now if Julian had lived longer?
Translation by Silvia Accorrà (edited by Roma O’Flaherty)