“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city” – Roman Payne
Author Nicholas Fourikis’s book ‘Hypatia’s Feud’ is a historical and fictional take on the life and times of Hypatia of Alexandria. Hypatia succeeded Plato’s school of philosophy but she was more than just a philosopher. Her interests and expertise were in topics as varied as physics, biology, linguistics, astronomy, mathematics, history and much more. Between the 4th and 5th century CE, she led a key enlightenment movement at a time when the major religions treated women as inferior creatures and attributed the reason behind everything to the will of God.
There’s an infinite beauty in the author’s prose. The sights, sounds and smell of Alexandria come alive in his passages. And just like Hypatia was supposed to have been, the author takes on the most complex of ideas and thoughts and breaks them down and explains them in everyday language. The past really does come alive in the author’s detailed and descriptive writing. The way each character walks, dresses and thinks has been recorded in such a realistic manner. It’s almost like the author followed these people around with a video camera and recorded everything with the keen eye of a sensitive and gifted artist.
There’s great tragedy and heartbreak intermixed with such strong emotions of love that you will be hard-pressed not to get emotionally affected by the narrative. Itwill make you question everything, including Hypatia’s and Aristos’s actions and thoughts. And this is perhaps the message the book wants to send out as well, it doesn’t want you to blindly accept anyone or anything without questioning it with a rational mind.
The words in this book may impress you but the visual imagery these words generate will stay with you for a long time. There are plenty of passages you will highlight to get back to for their ingenuity and thought provoking nature. You will also be entertained by the numerous legends, myths and stories about Alexandria’s rich history. And under Fourikis’s emotive writing, Hypatia’s awe-inspiring and thought provoking speeches truly come alive.
It’s narrated for the most part by Aristos, who is introduced as a young man in awe of Hypatia’s teachings and quickly goes on to become one of her most promising and gifted students. Aristos as a character grows up emotionally and rationally throughout the book and his responses at crucial junctures often reflect the reader’s mind at that point in the book. And perhaps like Aristos, you too will require time to re-evaluate what you have known so far before accepting newer thoughts and beliefs. A character like Posidonius the Magian plays a relevant and significant role in the narrative, often reflecting the collective conscience of rational and wise thinkers.
Hypatia was truly a remarkable woman and she is testament to the goodness and intellectual capability humans are capable of when not pursuing dodged dogmas.
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (March 29, 2011)