Winner of THE PEGASUS PRIZE FOR LITERATURE …
Mario De Carvalho’s book A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening is well researched which is apparent when he takes the reader back to Rome around the time of Jesus. The narrator is a Roman provincial official with whom we travel on his rounds of duties in the township where he lives, in amongst slaves and the rest of the populace.
We learn how Roman officials spent their days and how they treated their women and their slaves. He describes in detail his living quarters and official buildings and how governing decisions of the time were reached. The book is set in the era of Jesus’ preaching and that of his ragtag bands of followers. Rome was then suspicious of their motives, before the time when Rome would eventually embrace this new religion as the state’s own. Added to that, many felt threatened and alarmed by the way these ‘new sect’ devotees dressed and behaved. It just wasn’t the Roman way. Persecutions and killings of Jesus’ followers was rife but in spite of this, the bands grew in number and they willingly became martyrs for their new beliefs; they felt close to Jesus spiritually, copied his acts of compassion for the poor. His God seemed a more humane one than the various Roman gods.
Rome and her officials were sinking into corruption and the poor suffered greatly at their hands. For a Roman official to speak out for a pleb or a slave, was not self-serving; demotion or exile from one’s town, often both, would be the outcome.
This is a novel which offers a colourful insight into the beginnings of Christianity and the twilight years of the Roman Empire; although the second edition was published in 1999 it is still relevant, and a great read, today. The Roman Catholic Church grew from these humble and dark beginnings into the massive and wealthy ’empire’ it is today.
The Daily Telegraph described Carvalho as: ‘…a storyteller of genius who has brought the dead past to thrilling life.’ That he has.
-Anne Frandi-Coory. 22 January 2020