23 February 2009

The ancient backstory

It is difficult to weave the backstory of the Library of Alexandria in without actually being there. In other words, having people tell each other what they know about it in the book would be less effective that having chapters set in that time. I should consider flashbacks to various historic periods, like Ptolemy's. This seems to work well as in intro to Van Lustbader's The Testament, but I think he uses it only as a prologue. I have in mind taking it through the centuries, gradually. So there would be a scene of Ptolemy discussing his desire to have 500,000 scrolls in his library and how he intended to use the Jinn to protect them. Then there might be a scene of the Pergtamum Library and the endeavor to get the Aristotle books. Next a scene of Caesar burning Alexandria. Then the Carthoginians sacking Rome. We would get Justinian bringing the Temple Treasure to Constantinople. Somewhere, of course we need the building of the monument on Mt. Nemrud, the Ottoman takeover of Istanbul, and ultimately Gutenberg's trip and assignment. There should also be a scene of the Aldusians.

I'm thinking I should scatter these scenes throughout the book. That will give me a sense of the historicity of the piece and will also allow me to follow the Jinn and how they go about gathering and moving the scrolls. They have actually been guarding the library for 2400 years.

So, I'm thinking that my first bit of this backstory would come after the first explosion. I need to gain some perspective, but I don't like the idea of making it a prologue.

Luciano Canfora's book, The Vanished Library (University of California Press, 1989), is a great resource and survey of the extant documents that talk about the library and a historical perspective through about 10 centuries. It's fascinating reading if you get a chance.