The Czar's Madman
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The Czar's Madman (Jaan Krossi kogutud teosed #5)

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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  504 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Timo von Bock's release by the Czar from nine years' incarceration does not spell the end of the Baron's troubles: he is confined to his Livonian estate to live under the constant eye of police informers planted among his own household, and is subjected to endless humiliations. It is claimed that he is a madman and in need of 'protection': a man would need to be insane, af...more
Paperback, 349 pages
Published 2003 by The Harvill Press (first published 1978)
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Mariel
Dec 19, 2012 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: straight jacketed bees
Recommended to Mariel by: the little bird blabbed to the wrong censor
Here is a conclusion I have reached: leaving the question of God aside, I certainly won't lose sleep over "the fatherland." I have seen what total devotion to it may entail. Partial devotion to it may imply treason, but a true and total devotion to the fatherland, such as Timo's, would be sheer madness. Or is there yet another alternative? Or all possibilities in this world simply alternatives? Even in the "gently swaying separate world of the reeds at dusk"?


The Czar's Madman is an historical...more
Conrad
Kross is one of the better writers you've never read. An Estonian who I believe is still alive albeit ancient, he wrote his only two long works that have been translated into English (this and Professor Marten's Departure) under Soviet rule, managing to disguise a vicious and oftentimes funny critique of their authoritarian ways by writing about Estonians under the Tsar.

The Czar's Madman is about Timo von Bock, an actual Estonian nobleman, who has the gall to criticize the Tsar's authoritarian...more
Leland
Oct 19, 2008 Leland rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: russia, favorites
A brilliant novel written as a diary. Rich in 19th Century Estonian and Russian history. Vivid descriptions of the Estonian landscape, and one of the most compelling novels I've ever read. No spoilers, just a recommendation: anyone interested in Estonia who doesn't know of Jaan Kross, get this book. Anyone who loves 19th Century Russian Lit, read this book for a very unique perspective. Anyone who likes to read novels written in non-standard narrative formats, this is one of the finest.
Gordon
I was prepared to give Kross the benefit of the doubt because I have a soft spot for Estonia. It turns out there was no need... This was dazzling, one of the best books I have ever read. Timo von Bock - whether he was truly mad or not - is a man after my own heart, but with a thousand times the courage. The book as a whole is a wonderfully readable mix of tragedy, comedy, historical commentary and the touching life-stories of of beautifully-drawn characters, and raises some challenging questions...more
Nancy Oakes
don't worry: no spoilers here
First, let me say that I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction, and not what often passes for historical fiction; i.e., romantic novels set in an historical period. The Czar's Madman is not an easy read and demands patience and thorough reading, so if you're looking for light historical fiction this isn't the book for you. Otherwise, if, like myself, you enjoy fiction set during the Czarist period in Russia (which lasted, actually, through...more
Val
The Czar's Madman is a historical novel set in the 19th century in Livonia (now split between Estonia and Latvia), when the Baltic States had been invaded, enslaved and absorbed into the Russian Empire. Jaan Kross lived through a time when Estonia was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet USSR. His family were well-off and German speaking, expected to side with the Nazis; he did not. (He just managed to miss Germany's earlier occupation in WW1 by being born too late, and I do not know what...more
Caitlin
"The Czar's Madman" is a fascinating historical fiction about a man who truly stands up with the courage of his convictions. The story is told through the eyes of Jakob, Timo's brother-in-law. Jakob is both a participant and an observer in the strange happenings in his sister, Eeva and her husband Timo's lives. The ethical heart of the novel is what constitutes duty: is Timo right to sacrifice his own well being and that of his family to try to change society, or is duty to family paramount?

Timo...more
Shannon
I found this book to be quite interesting and as a north american I found it to have a real European feel to it. It is written as a journal from the point of view of the brother-in-law of a Baron. The Baron is a unique character who has been influenced by French philosophies that don't sit well with the rest of the Russian aristocracy. When the Baron chooses a peasant girl to be his wife and has her educated (and her brother as well to keep her company) many already begin to believe that he is m...more
Malcolm
The Livonian Baron, Timo van Bock, is a dunderheaded idealist who foolishly takes the Czar at his word of expecting to be told the truth – not recognising that the Czar’s truth and van Bock’s truth may not be the same thing. The result is that only a madman, a fool could be so idiotic to say what van Bock does; this cannot be treason – he’s a madman – but he must be isolated from those who do not recognise his views as those of a fool…. Van Bock disappears for nine years, bundled into the Imperi...more
Rowland Bismark
Estonian nobleman Timotheus von Bock, friend and confidant of Tsar Alexander I, was an idealist. Not only did he marry one of his peasants, but in 1818 he wrote a memorandum to the Tsar saying exactly what he thought of him. Incarcerated in prison as a result, he was freed in 1827 on grounds of insanity but remained under surveillance. Such is the historical background to Kross' novel The Czar's Madman, which purports to be a journal kept by Jakob, the brother of Timo's wife. (An afterword expla...more
Tyler
Sep 21, 2009 Tyler rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Although this story, in the form of a diary, counts as historical fiction, it is grounded in fact. Jaan Kross constructed the novel according to actual records of events in a family of Estonian nobility. The brother-in-law of the main character records the consequences of dissent in Imperial Russia in an account stretching from 1827 to 1836.

The building up of fiction from records avoids the anachronistic injection of modern viewpoints into bygone eras. Readers get a reliable picture of the valu...more
Siim Schvede
Raamat kujutab üht kõrgemas aukraadis olevat ohvitseri, kes julges ette võtta sammu parandamaks Vene tsaaririigi olukorda. Timotheus von Bock tahtis Venemaal panna aluse põhiseaduslikule riigikorrale. Timotheus saatis oma manifesti keisrile enne selle avaldamist Maapäeval. Ta oli varem andnud tsaarile lubaduse talle alati tõtt rääkida ning ta kavatses seda teha ka nüüd. Tsaar ei saanud selle manifesti avaldamist aga lubada, sest tagajärjed oleks võinud keisrile endale saatuslikuks saada. Timothe...more
Riet
Een roman gebaseerd op een z.g. gevonden dagboek, maar wel gebaseerd op een flink aantal historische feiten. Geschreven door een Est enhet sppeelt ookin Estland in de tijd, dat het door Rusland overheerst werd. Een Estse baron wordt verliefd op een boerendochter (dus eigenlijk de dochter van een slaaf in die tijd), laat haar samen met haar broer een opvoeding geven en trouwt dan met haar. Hij heeft nog wel meer verlichte ideeen en schrijft die op voor de tsaar. Die laat hem voor gek verklaren en...more
k
Some good premises - the tag-along semi-resentful brother, the "sane" man in a mad house element - but didn't come together. The latter premise was especially poorly fleshed out; you never got the sense that Timo was under any grave threat or pressure until the slightly too-sudden end. I couldn't tell how much of this book was laughing a little at historical fiction, or maybe how much of it was veiled Soviet satire, or even maybe how much it was more of an investigation into the nature of the li...more
Jan-Maat
Novel set in Estonia in the early years of the 19th century. The narrator is a young man from the peasantry whose sister the local nobleman married. The nobleman has been banished to his estates by the Tsar, officially on account of his insanity. This insanity manifesting itself in his views on the social order.

Interesting novel, didn't have the same impact on me as the same author's Professor Marten's Departure.

There's a sense that the nobleman has viewed his wife and her brother as specimens...more
☯Bettie☯
spotted on Nancy's update

Translated by Anselm Hollo from the Finish edition by Ivo Iliste: so this is a translation of a translation uh-oh!

Estonia under Imperial Russia 1850

Opening: First, let me recall the occasion that impelled me to begin this journal.

Alexander I of Russia

Schlusselburg Fortress



The 'Mad' Tsar, Paul I

The translation is a bit ropey, however one becomes so engrossed in the story, that doesn't seem to matter. Started to get well and truly fed up with the journal-keeping bro' b...more
Suzanne
This is a fictionalized account of nobleman’s imprisonment under Czar Alexander I, due to an honest criticism of the regime. Unfortunately, either the translation is just plain terrible, or the story itself is lacking. At halfway through the book, I decided to abandon it. Life it too short and there are too many good books out there to continue with tedium.
Collin Rogowski
Ganz amüsanter, historische Roman über die Zarenzeit in Russland. Ich bin nicht so wirklich reingekommen, da mir zum einen das nötige Hintergrundwissen fehlt und zum anderen nur ein Teil der (Zarenreich-)Geschichte die beleuchtet wird, der auch noch sehr speziell ist (das Verhältnis einer deutsch-baltischen Familie zu Alexander I.)
Joni
What I find truly astonishing in this book, which tells a story of a political dissident who was put to prison and labeled as madman for his beliefs, is that it was actually written and published in Soviet Union!
Mia
Without a doubt one of the best examples of Estonian literature. Historical background with a touching personal story that stays with the reader long after finishing the book. One of my all time favourites!
Natalie
A really outstanding read, one I have no problems recommending. A brilliant novel written as a diary. Rich in 19th Century Estonian and Russian history. Vivid descriptions of the Estonian landscape.
Tristam Trondheim
I was looking forward to read what it's being held in Estonia as the masterpiece of national literature, but the prose is rather dull. I'm not sure this is due to the poor translation
Caroline
Very interesting, but pretty slow at times, and I imagine near impossible if you don't already have an interest/knowledge of Russia in this period. Good charity shop purchase though :-)
Stephan Frank
Complicated one. A bit long, but definitely worthwhile if you enjoy the classical novel structure. The ending is quite heart-breaking. Definitely not an easy bedside reading.....
Robin
Jakob reminds me of the dilemma faced by the watermelon man (check imdb 1970)
Bogusia Gruszka
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250312
Estonia's bestknown and most translated writer is Jaan Kross. He has been tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature on several occasions for his novels, but did in fact start his literary career as a poet and translator of poetry. On his return from the labour camps and internal exile in Russia where he spent the years 1946-1954 as a political prisoner, Kross renewed Estonian poetry, giving it new...more
More about Jaan Kross...
Wikmani poisid (Jaan Krossi kogutud teosed, #9) Kolme katku vahel, I-II (Balthasar Russowi romaan, #1-2) (Jaan Krossi kogutud teosed, #1) Professor Martens' Departure Mardileib Treading Air

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