The Czar's Madman
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Timo von Bock's release by the Czar from nine years' incarceration does not spell the end of the Baron's troubles: he is confined to his Livonian estate to live under the constant eye of police informers planted among his own household, and is subjected to endless humiliations. It is claimed that he is a madman and in need of 'protection': a man would need to be insane, after all, to have taken a Czar at his word when asked for a candid appraisal of the state's infirmities. From the year of his release from prison and return to his wife Eeva, a woman of peasant stock to whom, with her brother Jakob, he has given a solid education, the Baron's life is recorded in a secret journal by this same Jakob, a shrewd and observant house-guest. Reconstructing the events leading up to the Baron's incarceration in 1818 and subsequent to his release in 1827, Jakob little by little brings to light mysteries surrounding the 'Czar's madman'. Was his madness genuine? What was the secret understanding between him and his boon companion Czar Alexander I, who committed him to prison? In The Czar's Madman Jaan Kross weaves together the elements of intrigue surrounding those historical characters who survived in post-Napoleonic Russia, and by a skillful shifting of chronology and viewpoints, creates a superbly rich and moving narrative. Winner of France's Best Foreign Book Award.
From Publishers Weekly
The plot of Kross's first novel to appear in English may indeed "most resemble the quick scene changes of Italian operas," as the narrator says, but this Estonian author's approach is provocative, original and highly political. Timo von Bock, a 19th-century Estonian baron possessed of romantic ideals, falls in love with and marries a peasant girl, the chambermaid of the young lady he had been expected to wed. He then frees the serfs on his estate and criticizes the czar in a letter--for which he is imprisoned. After nine years, he is declared mad and placed under house arrest at his estate, where his every movement is monitored by relatives and retainers loyal to the czar before the baron finally dies under mysterious circumstances. Timo's peasant brother-in-law, who has been educated by the von Bock family, narrates the proceedings in a deceptively measured, almost dry style that offsets the powerful emotions gripping all the characters. Kross (b. 1920his nationality is not given, nor is original language supplied/ fred jordan at pantheon says kross is estonian, wrote novel in estonian; see above/pre ), who spent nine years in Soviet labor camps, uses the cat-and-mouse games of Timo and his enemies to critique imperial Russia's relationship with its Baltic province and, by extension, the authoritarian regimes of our own times.
From Library Journal
As the Iron Curtain continues to melt, more and more novels by writers from Central European and Baltic countries arrive in America. Written in the form of a diary, this historical-political novel from Estonia addresses the issues of madness and the subjugation of citizens by the Russian czars during the 19th century. The diary of Jakob Mattik spans the years 1827-59 and devotes itself almost entirely to the story of his sister Eeva and her husband, Baron Timotheus von Bock. Von Bock breaks societal covenants by marrying the young peasant girl and then alienates the czar, who had been a personal friend, with a critical missive. The result is a nine-year prison term from which von Bock is released only after he is deemed harmlessly mad. Although numerous diary entries ponder whether von Bock is truly mad, scant exploration is made of what constitutes madness. Loosely based on historical fact, this verbose work is interesting but not enlightening and requires a tenacious reader.
- Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
doings. This became apparent—or so it seems to me in hindsight—in that Tim o’s change, his turning peculiar in certain ways, was some times reflected in her behavior; but it may well be that I didn’t really notice any of those things back then. Things like the way Timo grew rather taciturn at the end of that winter (he was never a talkative man except when intoxicated with some subject of particular interest to himself). And the way he would sometimes say things that sounded like tragic
wasn’t able to speak freely to the doctor; but as soon as the boy got bored and left, I brought the conversation around to my question—what did Dr. Faehlmann think of Mr. Bock’s mental health? Dr. Faehlmann looked straight at me with his aggravatingly large, dark-gray eyes. “I have been told that Mr. Bock was released from prison for the very reason that he had lost his sanity.” “So they say.” “So it follows that if he hadn’t gone mad, he would still be locked up in Schlusselburg.” “Maybe so.”
“Yes, precisely that amount,” Cube said, almost ingratiatingly. “And who is this creditor?” Eeva asked. “His name is . . .” The chief treasurer eyed the slightly soiled knee of his light-colored trousers, then suddenly looked up at Eeva (with an expression that seemed to say, ‘Well, now, do you really not know who it is?’). “It is Count Stedingk.” “I see,” said Eeva without acting particularly surprised—and as if such a gesture by some Count Stedingk seemed entirely com prehensible to her. She
for them to write to the Czar that I understood the error of my ways. Permission for them to tell him that I was begging his forgiveness for my insolence!” THE CZAR'S MADMAN 125 “What did you say to that?” “I said, ‘Gentlemen, if it is your wish to provide this lonely man with cultured company, I shall always welcome you. But if it is your desire to make me retreat from my convictions, I find myself compelled to tell you: please do not waste your time! What’s more, I am compelled to ask you
gratitude to Georg, it is obviously the right thing to do—as far as I can see?” “That is true . . . ” Eeva said. “But what ever made you think he didn’t have a right?” “. . . I felt that no matter how great his need is, he is, nevertheless— well, he is free to come and go and to attend to his affairs. That was why it seemed to me that he should not, after all, make use of this document.” Timo got up and, with a curiously strained expression, paced back and forth between the grand piano and the