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I, Claudius

Claudius the God, Goodbye to All That, I, Claudius

graves book roman prize

a novel by Robert Graves, published in 1934. The book charts the unlikely fortunes of Claudius, who succeeds in surviving the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula before reluctantly becoming emperor in its closing stages. The narrative purports to be the emperor's lost autobiography, and is continued in Claudius the God, which appeared in the same year. Graves read very widely in preparation for the book's composition, conceiving of it as a reconstruction of Rome in the first century ad and intending as great a degree of authenticity as possible: Tacitus, Suetonius, Seneca, and Josephus are among the authors to whom he referred for details relating to Roman customs, politics, law, trade, and military affairs. The result is notable for its unrelenting portrayal of vice, corruption, and horror at various levels in Roman society; Claudius's tone as narrator resembles the cool and laconic manner Graves developed in Goodbye to All That. Although he and Laura Riding tended to dismiss the work as a pot-boiler, it is remarkably well crafted and maximizes the effect of its strong plot and richness of historical detail; it was awarded the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1935 and hailed as a masterpiece. Constantly in print since 1934, I, Claudius enjoyed a period of enormous popularity when it was adapted for television in 1976. Randall Jarrell called it ‘a good book singular enough to be immortal’.

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