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As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel
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As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  110 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Peter Bruegel's paintings---a peasant wedding in a barn, hunters in the snow, a rollicking street festival, and many others---have long defined our idea of everyday life in sixteenth- century Europe. They are classic icons of a time and place in much the same way as Norman Rockwell's depictions of twentieth-century America. We know relatively little about Bruegel, but afte ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 15th 2003 by Forge Books (first published 2002)
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Art & Artists in Fiction
133rd out of 446 books — 738 voters
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Books Set in Rome
141st out of 160 books — 51 voters

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Community Reviews

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It seems so tough to portray real-life artists in historical fictions... So often, you get the sense that the portrayer hasn't the faculty to grasp the significance of the portrayed. So often the need is felt to "explain" how a work came to be. For example, in Shakespeare in Love, we saw things in Shakespeare's environment which supposedly fed directly into his plays. There's more to art than the simple movement from observations on life to portrayal of life, whether with words or with brush. Th ...more
I had never heard of Rucker before I picked up this book; he has written non-fiction and science fiction, but I believe this is his first novel. Little is known of Peter Bruegel’s life, but Rucker has taken what facts there are and written an enjoyable account of life in the Low Countries in the 16th century, when ruled by Spain and the Spanish inquisition against the Calvinists was becoming more and more feared and widespread. Rucker’s notes for this book can be found on his web site www.RudyRu ...more
I highly recommend this book. It is the fictional imagining of the life of Peter Bruegel. The author combined the few known facts about Bruegel's life with the history and the culture of the Netherlands in the 1500s to craft a realistic and intriguing novel. Each chapter has a Bruegel painting featured at the beginning and vividly describes the events in the artist's life and times that shaped the painting. My only criticism of the book is that I wish the reproductions of Bruegel's paintings wer ...more
As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel, by Rudy Rucker (2002, 318 pages). “In sixteen chapters, each headed by one of the artist’s famous works, Rucker brings Bruegel’s painters progress and his colorful world to vibrant life, doing for Bruegel what the bestselling Girl With A Pearl Earring did for Vermeer. We follow the artist from the winding streets of Antwerp and Brussels to the glowing skies and decaying monuments of Rome” ( book description).
it is true that the author didn't have much information to go on. when writing about the paintings he did a good job and i had a sense of the time period and how the art displayed that. but the dialogue between the character is so clumsy it took away from what should have been an enjoyable read. A really annoying thing followed after he used a Flemish ( ? ) term then in the next sentence defined or translated it. other authors do this much more smoothly by incorporating that info into a part of ...more
Sir Mons
This is a fictionalized account of the artist Peter Bruegel's adult life during the mid 1500s. Very clever, a great cast of characters, the author really did his research on this one. Lots of moments are stolen right out of the Master's paintings and brought to life. It was really a treat to get to see many of the paintings referred to in this book live and in person on a recent trip to Vienna. It made then all the more special. This is a go out and get now kind of book IMHO.
Cynthia Karl
The format for this novel about the artist Peter Bruegel is interesting - the first page of each chapter is a painting by Bruegel and the chapter relates to the painting in some way. I enjoyed the descriptions of 16th century Flemish culture and historical events and what it took to be an artist in that time period. The weakness in the book is the dialogue and the social interactions of the characters which frequently seem strained or unrealistic.
One of the most insightful bios of an artist I've ever come across. Reconstructing the life of Bruegel from little more than his paintings and a lot of historical research into the period. Rucker creates chapters of an artist's life wherein the particular painting is conceived and created. The faces of the people in his works can be matched with characters in this fictional recreation. A truly wonderful book.
An enjoyable bringing-to-life of Bruegel through his paintings. A little frustrating to stare at small b&w pictures at the beginning of each chapter, given the generally large size of Bruegel's paintings, so it might be a good idea to read this book with the internet handy.

I found this much more effective on my sense of learning and imagination than a pure art history book would have been.
Very interesting subject matter (which I knew almost nothing about), and excellent presentation of the historical period. While I liked the book overall, I just did not care very much about any of the characters. I haven't been able to put my finger on why, but they just did not "live" in my mind. Still, an informative read that fans of historical fiction or art may enjoy.
Rudy Rucker gives an accurate portrayl of the political climate in and around Antwerp in the 16th century and the intrigues of both church and state. As a biography of Peter Bruegel it reads as a bit of fact mixed with a large portion of conjecture and imagination.
Didn't enjoy this as much as I wished. There was way too much sensatiionalist narrative, then awkward dialogue with historical 'teaching' and art appreciation 101. Wish it had stuck to one style or the other.
Another of those books that makes you hope that the author did his research carefully, because the portrait of the characters, place, and time are so compelling. I now want very much to see the paintings described.
This book drew me in as I've always liked Peter Bruegel's work. The novel told a believable tale about what life might have been like during Bruegel's life.
Made me want to look at color reproduction's of Peter Bruegel's works. The ones in the book weren't very good.
A very enjoyable fictionalized (and well-researched) biography. Now I just wish I could see the paintings in person.
Mitzi Smyth
Loved this book. Was very interesting. Loved the history that filled the pages.
Ani Simmons
I couldn't finish. I wanted to, but I just couldn't.
Reed Bilz
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Rudolf von Bitter Rucker is an American mathematician, computer scientist, science fiction author, and one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre. He is best known for his Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which won Philip K. Dick awards. Presently, Rudy Rucker edits the science fiction webzine Flurb.
More about Rudy Rucker...
Software (Ware, #1) Wetware (Ware, #2) Freeware (Ware, #3) Postsingular Realware (Ware, #4)

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