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Norfolk, Lawrence

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1963-    ) UK author whose first novel, Lemprière's Dictionary (1991; cut 1992) is an elaborate secret history set in the late eighteenth century, depicting vast Automata from the Steampunk toolkit and sinister immortals (see Immortality) under a phantasmagoric London, murders that involve the re-enactment of classical myth, and a conspiracy by the Secret Masters who attempt to rule Europe, that ties together the Siege of La Rochelle, the British East India Company and the origins of the French Revolution. The American edition is cut to a point which renders much of this unintelligible. Underneath the play of events and Paranoias, Lempriere's Dictionary is as taxing an examination of the making of the modern world-view as Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Norfolk's second novel, The Pope's Rhinoceros (1996), applies some of the same tools of discovery to the late Renaissance in its Magic Realist recounting of a sixteenth-century quest for the eponymous beast, evoking en passant African myth and magic; the famous 1515 engraving of a rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) illuminates the tale. In the Shape of a Boar (2000) illuminatingly re-enacts a pre-Homeric Greek drama – the hunting of a savage boar by Meleager and Atalanta – in the context of World War Two. [RK/JC]

Lawrence Norfolk

born Richmond, Surrey: 1963

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