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English version

 

BEING CARAVAGGIO by Margreet Hofland (original titlle: Het genie van Rome)

On a stormy winter’s day in 1571, the Marchesa di Caravaggio’s chambermaid, newly wed, is raped by a stranger while traveling to Milan. Nine months later she gives birth to a son in whose features she recognizes those of the man who begot him: a handsome face smoldering with demonic passion.

Four centuries later, the Dutchman Lucas Antheunissen discovers that he is the spitting image of the famous Italian artist Caravaggio, the “genius of Rome”. But it isn’t just a physical thing: his life, too, bears more than a passing resemblance to Caravaggio’s. When he visits Italy, Lucas discovers that he too has a real talent for painting.

Eline, his girlfriend, observes Lucas withdrawing more and more from her and from the world, and wonders if Lucas’ conviction that he is related to the great painter might be more than just an obsession. Lucas can’t help himself; something draws him, it seems, to follow the same path Caravaggio carved out generations ago — a life of enormous talent, fame, intrigue, murder and hopeless love.

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Click here for a synopsis
Click here for a preview of some chapters from the book

translated by: Hester Velmans

 

Writers usually start off cautiously. With a short story collection for instance, or a novella. But not so in the case of the publishing house In de Knipscheer. HET GENIE VAN ROME (Being Caravaggio) is a 550-page novel by Margreet Hofland that interweaves the life of the master painter Caravaggio with contemporary characters. So Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) is given a 20th-Century counterpart in the person of Lucas Antheunissen, a fictional descendant of the master of chiaroscuro. The author paints a colorful and nuanced portrait of the prematurely deceased master painter and his times. Caravaggio comes to life so brilliantly in this novel that one wonders if Hofland might not simply have written a straightforward historical novel about his life. Hofland has succeeded in turning it into a riveting story.
Haagsche Courant, May 9, 2003

This original first novel alternates between the 20th Century (1951-1985) and the 16th-Century world of Caravaggio. This lively tale will appeal especially to lovers of Italian Renaissance art. A colorful debut.
Biblion, June 2003

A captivating formula, the concept especially. A book in which the storylines flow together seamlessly, and in which the past and the present are ingeniously woven into a satisfying whole, making for a most enjoyable read.

A historical novel, thriller and travelogue all rolled into one. A very readable biography in the form of an absorbing novel. Delightful.
Patrick Vandendaele, Belgium, October 3, 2003