The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher
The Emperor Waltz is a single novel with three narrative strands: fourth-century Rome, 1920s Germany, and 1980s London.
In a desert settlement on the fringes of the Roman Empire, a new wife becomes fascinated by a cult that is persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian. In 1922, Christian, a young artist, travels to Weimar to begin his studies at the Bauhaus, where the avant-garde confronts conservative elements around it. With postwar Germany in turmoil, while the Bauhaus attempts to explore radical ways of thinking and living, Christian finds that love will change him for ever. And in 1980s London, Duncan uses his inheritance to establish the country’s first gay bookshop in the face of opposition from the neighbours and victimisation by the police.
Delving deep into the human spirit to explore connections between love, sanctity, commitment and virtue, Philip Hensher takes as his subject small groups of men and women, tightly bound together, trying to change the world through the example of their lives. The Emperor Waltz is an absorbing echo-chamber of a novel, innovative and compelling, that explores what it means for us to belong to each other.
Paperback / 624 pages