9780099285298 / 0099285290

The Justification of Johann Gutenberg





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About the book:

The Justification of Johann Gutenberg, Blake Morrison's first novel, a historical novel about the man who invented printing from metal type and thereby revolutionised the culture of the book in Christian Europe. His published output has been nothing if not varied: among his works are several volumes of poetry, the acclaimed memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? and As If, a study of the Bulger case.

Born 600 years ago, Gutenberg here is portrayed as an old man looking back on the personal failures and scant professional successes of a life driven by the dream of a radical and democratising invention: the printing press. "What I fear is that death will rub out what I have done, till not a trace of me is left upon the earth." The irony of this early admission is obvious, for print is exactly what remains of him, but the deeper force of the book is marked by the need to "justify"--to himself, to posterity, to God. Morrison's Gutenberg is, in some ways, a recognisable modern figure: his difficult relationships with his parents, his problematic liaisons with women, the sacrifice of amorous happiness to ambition, the struggles with financial hardship, the scandalous aura imputed to homosociality. These are very much the concerns of modern biography, here recast into historical fictional narrative. Larger social and cultural forces are dutifully sketched by Morrison, but ultimately his interest is in the man who dreams of being a "volume in eternity" who will be "assembled in [God's] library". Fame was ever the spur, it seems. --Burhan Tufail

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