Q : Roman

by Luther Blissett

Other authorsUlrich Hartmann (Translator)
Paperback, 2003

Status

Available

Call number

IV 62000 B649 Q1

Collection

Publication

München

Description

In 1517, Martin Luther nails his ninety-five theses to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral, and a dance of death begins between a radical Anabaptist with many names and a loyal papal spy known mysteriously as "Q." In this brilliantly conceived literary thriller set in the chaos of the Reformation-an age devastated by wars of religion-a young theology student adopts the cause of heretics and the disinherited and finds himself pursued by a relentless papal informer and heretic hunter. What begins as a personal struggle to reveal each other's identity becomes a mission that can only end in death.

Media reviews

Set Les Miserables in Reformation Europe, with Javert reporting to an evil cardinal instead of the prefect of police, and you’ll have something of this book.
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Rich religious history is turned into bloated, tedious fiction in this Reformation-age epic produced by four anonymous writers lurking behind a pseudonym.

User reviews

LibraryThing member isabelx
We were diligent sowers of the seed, lighting the spark of war against those who had usurped the Word of God, the tormentors of His people. I saw scythes hammered into swords, hoes becoming lances and simple men leaving the plough to become fearless warriors. I saw a little carpenter carving a
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great crucifix and guiding Christ's troops like the captain of the most invincible army. I saw all this and I saw those men and women take up their own faith and turn it into a banner of revenge. Love seized our hearts with that one fire that flamed within us all; we were free and equal in the name of God, and we would smash the mountains, stop the world, kill all our tyrants in order to realise His kingdom of peace and brotherhood.

The protagonist starts off as a radical student at Wittenburg University, and becomes a soldier in the cause of religious reform, moving through Northern Europe, travelling under many different names and sometimes having to go into hiding. Despising the Lutherans as having become as much a part of the establishment as the Catholic church, he hooks up with the more extreme Anabaptists, travelling with various preachers and agitators, inciting peasants and townspeople to rebel against the aristocrats and merchants who oppress them. In later years, his methods become more indirect, as he perpetrates a fraud on the bankers who finance the people in power, and becomes involved in publishing and distributing a banned book, "The Benefit of Christ Crucified", in the hope of influencing the opinions of Catholic intellectuals and the more moderate cardinals and ensuring the election of a sympathetic pope, who will curb the powers of the inquisition.

Decades of intrigues and attacks, betrayals and retreats, rashness and remorse, are rushing together all of a sudden. The prophets and the king of a single, tragic day; cardinals and popes, and new popes; bankers, princes, merchants and preachers; men of letters, painters and spies, and counsellors and pimps. Everywhere, involving everyone, the same war.

The story covers nearly forty years of the Reformation, portraying it as social revolution as much as religious reform, if not more so. It skips backwards and forwards in time, but each of the short chapters is dated, so I found it easy to follow. Gert from the Well's story is interspersed with letters from the Catholic spy known as Q or Qoelet, who is working for the Vatican to counter the plots of its foes, whether they be Anabaptists, Lutherans or indeed the Holy Roman Emperor himself.

The name of the footballer Luther Blissett was used as a nom de plume by various artists and radicals around the world during the 1990s, as part of the loosly organised "Luther Blissett Project. "Q" was written by a collective of four Italian anarchists, who have since written another novel under the name Wu Ming.

It is an utterly fascinating story, which leaves the reader with lots to think about - what happened in Munster really reminded me of "Animal Farm". While I was reading the early parts of this book, I was also reminded me about the pet hen in "Sredni Vashtar" by Saki. The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable. I think Conradin should be very satisfied with his choice.
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LibraryThing member leobot
"one of the stupidest episodes is when the hero meets by chance the cardinal that is to become the next pope!"
Ehm... Stupid or not, it really happened. During the 1970's that meeting was one of the subjects of Prof Carlo Ginzburg's historical research.
BTW, some key members of Anabaptism, far from
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being depicted as "always good", turn into crazy villains in the second part of the novel.
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LibraryThing member laphroaig
At over 500 pages and set in one of Europe's most turbulent and violent periods of history, Q is not a light read. The plot follows the central character between various religious revolts, sharing his heady sense of justice amid visions of a new world order and his cruel defeats, along the way the
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reader is spared little of the casual malice of the age. Over time the multi-named hero becomes aware of Q, a shadowy adversary whose identity becomes an obsession.

Q is a good book. It is well written with an intriguing plot and unlike many historical novels it uses past events and characters to its advantage. I am glad I got to the end; however, it was a struggle. Partly this is due to the off-hand brutality that peppers the book, partly because the story is told in a multitude of ways that can sometimes be difficult to follow. The characters are hit-and-miss, some wonderful and realistic (some of the side characters hesitation between inaction, madness, faith and morality is genuinely sad), others being two-dimensional. Mostly, however, the main character just got on my nerves: he is both wise and sensible when others give in to insanity, a believer in the revolutions he follows and helps foment, a student of life's harshest lessons ... but most of all he can seem like a bit of a whiner. The defeats he has suffered and how others have been harmed because of him are stressed relentlessly; the intrigues with Q and the final denouement are bizarrely out of character and I struggle to see his passion for his cause.

Irritation with the narrator is a fairly fatal blow, but fortunately it is insufficient to sink 'Q'. It is intelligent, interesting and rewarding and although I occasionally wonder what else I could have done with all that time, I'm leaving the book on hand because one day I suspect I will revisit it.
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LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Honestly it was an interesting read if a bit fragmented and meandering. I'm not sure that it's really my kind of book but I'm not unhappy that I read it. It gave me an insight into the various revolts and the effect that the reformation had on people and how they thought about the world.
LibraryThing member neurodrew
A very good novel about the time of the Reformation. The title refers to a character who is a spy for the Inquisition, involved in toppling the various protestant sects and ultimately establishing the power of the church. The story is told mainly from the point of view of a German free-lancer and
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mercenary, who first became involved with a radical peasant revolt, then with Anabaptists, and at the end as a subversive working with the Jewish people in Venice. Very richly detailed, moves at a good pace, has a complex plot and engaging characters.
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LibraryThing member 8bitmore
Brilliant read, essential stuff for people interested in the 1500th century and the incredible internal turmoil Europe was in at the time. How technology, trade and religion was turned up side down over a very brief time frame!
LibraryThing member Panairjdde
Q is a book I truly enjoyed, so much I spread around my friends and relatives, with mixed results.

It is set in the early 16th century and is centred around a theme I was never interested in, Reformation; furthermore is quite a long novel (more than the average) and structured along a non-linear
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timeline.

Nonetheless it is an interesting read. Not an essay, but its history is well researched, so much that the leading character moves around in the shadows of "History", often in touch with true historical characters.
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LibraryThing member liehtzu
I am in awe! An amazing, historical tour de force which brought to life the turmoil of Europe of the Reformation, the incredible incestuous politicking of the factions, the long view the Vatican takes (to this very day) built within a brilliant spy novel at the top of the genre. I'd pay a great
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deal of money to have lunch with the authors - 'course I'd have to learn Italian or they'd have to speak English.
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LibraryThing member TioMyth
An amazing tale revolving around the violence in Western Europe during the Protestant Reformation. The authors are an interesting group; some of the same people have written books under the pen name of "Wu Ming".
LibraryThing member celerydog
Historical religious fiction, reveals the power of religion to corrupt and be subverted by the rich and already powerful. A challenging read, partly because of the format, with one of the 2 narrators, who both remain anonymous for most of the book, writes spy reports back to his boss, a corrupt
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cardinal who has long term aspirations to become pope himself. Exposes bankers as political opportunists, even back in the 1500s.
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LibraryThing member Alex1952
A very nicely written novel centered around the religious wars in Europe that began with the spread of Protestantism in 16th century.
LibraryThing member zbyshko
This is a very rich, dense book. I spent so long reading it only because every page, EVERY page, required some looking into Wikipedia for information on a historical even or personage or item. This rather added to my enjoyment instead of detracting. It is a gripping story to follow and I learned
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much in the process.
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LibraryThing member jonfaith
I smile. No plan can take everything into account. Other people will raise their heads, others will desert. Time will go on spreading victory and defeat among those who pursue struggle.


There is a scene in Alan Bennett's History Boys where the instructor tells his students, if you want to know about
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Stalin you should study Henry VIII. I felt similar illustrations throughout this sprawling epic. Recurring tensions and responses proliferate through history. Well over a month was spent with Q, a month occupied otherwise by the World Cup and numerous intrigues into the depths of Derrida and Foucault. The baggy novel concerns millenarianism but in the befogged era of the religious wars and the Reformation. Street Fighting Men battle princes and papal guards, while revolutions orange and velvet give way to failed Springs and betrayed Thaws. The narrative as such concerns two men, equally unknown with protean noms-de-guerre: they act observe and operate for the opposing forces in this weird rethink of early modernity.

Luther Blissett is the pseudonym for four politically radical Italian novelists who will later in another incarnation be known as Wu Ming. This creative endeavor finds its historical subject in a most messy marriage, one that gleams even as it oozes.
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LibraryThing member 1nbm
This fascinating book tells the story of the middle years of the 16th century in Europe, through the voices of two protagonists. One is a Protestant, who over the course of the book becomes increasingly allied to the Anabaptists, one of the most extreme Protestant sects. The Anabaptists, who
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practiced re-baptism and preached social and ecclesiastical anarchy, were hated and persecuted by the followers of Luther and Calvin no less than by the servants of the Pope. The other protagonist is a spy in the service of a powerful cardinal who provides a narrative of the events in Germany and Italy and also acts as an agent provocateur. These two mortal enemies share a surprisingly similar world view of a world which is foreign to us in this century, and yet some reviewers have read Luther Blisset's book as a metaphor of Europe in teh 20th century.
The real names of the protagonists are never revealed, and they each go by various aliases throughout the book, which can be a bit confusing at times. The book is translated from the Italian, and contains explicit scatological language which will not come as a surprise to anyone who has studied the writings and sayings of Luther, but which sound strange to modern ears on the lips of Protestant preachers and their congregations.
Q provides an interesting slant on the Protestant reformation for anyone interested in this period. It also provides an interesting perspective on the participation and survival of Sephardic Judaism in Europe.
One really great thing about this book is that it is licensed under Creative Commons. This means that the text can be legally reproduced in electronic form, provided the author and copyright notice are acknowledged. Hopefully this is the way of publishing in the future.
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LibraryThing member rsairs
It's a long book,and I sense could have been shorter to its own advantage. I happen to know a little about the radical Reformation players who populate its pages. I can't understand the authors' portrayal of Hans Denck, who based on everything I've read was a gentle soul and perhaps much more of an
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influence in moving Hans Hut and others like him away from the violence of Thomas Muentzer. I did not understand why the authors mentioned Obbe Philips only briefly and somewhat dismissively, since his (and his brother Dirk's) connection to Menno Simons will be very important to subsequent Anabaptist history. Menno isn't even mentioned. I think the authors had it right in that David Joris for a moment attempts to combine Anabaptist visions and include the remnants of Muenster. As I understand it he has to leave the north fairly quickly to flee to Basle. The authors have him operating openly there under his real name, but this seems very unlikely. As I understand it, he directed the DavidJorist sect from afar, clandestinely under the name of Jan of Bruges, and that even his own family was unaware of his former life and the deception which was discovered after his death. I hope it isn't too much of a spoiler (quit reading immediately if you are very sensitive), to say that

I loved the surprise ending.
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Awards

Language

Original language

Italian

Original publication date

1999

ISBN

3492239900 / 9783492239905
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