MASTER SIGER’S DREAM by A. W. Deannuntis

Book Quote:

“[Master Siger] had arrived at a new theory of causality that provided logical extension of the work of Aristotle and Averroes. Against the idea of omnipotent and ever-present Deity, Master Siger had concluded that God is completely detached from the Universe, has no idea what is going on, and is powerless to affect it in any way. . . a case he had finally committed to paper and titled “On the Necessity and Contingency of Causes,” scheduled to appear in the February 1278 issue of Playboy magazine. Master Siger hoped that the Playmate of the month was a blond, since blonds drew more readers.”

Book Review:

Review by Devon Shepherd  (NOV 16, 2010)

Reading A.W. Deannuntis’ debut novel, Master Siger’s Dream, put me in mind of the John Kennedy Toole masterpiece A Confederacy of Dunces. The epigraph for that book – When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him – could easily do service here. In the role of the genius is 13th century philosopher Siger of Brabant, with the dunces being played by the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, the Papal Legate, Simon De Brion, and various anonymous sadists of the Roman Catholic Inquisition. And while medieval philosophy abounds in both books, it was Deannuntis’ characterization of Siger of Brabant as an irreverent gadfly that really called to mind Ignatius Reilly. But Master Siger has much bigger problems than his flatulent counterpart: 13th century France is not 20th century New Orleans (although, curiously, Deannuntis endows his medieval Europe with cars and video and helicopters); in Master Siger’s world, irreverence gets you killed (and tortured to boot).

The book opens just after the release of the Condemnations of 1277. Europe emerged from the Dark Ages just as scholars rediscovered the works of Aristotle via Islamic philosophers such as Avicenna and Averroes. Averroes famously tried to reconcile Aristotlean philosophy with the teachings of the Islamic faith in his treatise The Incoherence of the Incoherence. Christian theologians – Thomas Aquinas, among them – promptly concerned themselves with reconciliations of their own. Unfortunately, the Church wasn’t as keen on philosophy as these theologians, and while the motives of the theologians was to find a way to use reason and logic in support of the Church, the Church didn’t take well to having its doctrine vetted against the ideas of some pagan philosopher. The Condemnations, issued by Bishop Tempier, forbid anyone from teaching or listening to a list of disputed ideas on the pain of excommunication. While the Condemnations never named them explicitly, Siger of Brabant, and his friend, Boetius of Dacia, were well-known Averroists. And so, upon the issue of the Condemnations, Siger and Boetius find themselves without allies. Suddenly, Paris is a cold place, and on the advice of Boetius, Siger reluctantly flees the city he loves.

However, Pope Nicholas III’s reach is as far as his pockets are deep and Siger is promptly captured and brought before Bishop Tempier. Instructed to travel directly to the Papal Palace in Avignon, Siger suspects he’s being led into the lion’s den. But, not a man of many options, he figures the Papal Palace safer than the Inquisition’s torture chamber. And besides, he’s told that it’s already been arranged for Boetius to meet him there.

It quickly becomes clear that life in the Papal Palace is practically pagan –food, sex and drugs galore – but forbidden to leave, Siger is little more than a prisoner. To further complicate matters, when he’s not hot-boxing the Popemobile with His Holiness out on the Pope’s private golf-course or rifling through pornography in the palace’s secret archives, Siger is fed information he’s not sure how to use. Was Thomas of Aquinas murdered by the Church? Is his missing friend, Boetius, really dead? Or is he alive somewhere organizing Siger’s rescue? And just who are these beautiful, libidinous women who keep trying to help him? What of this Arab reporter?

But just as the existence of heretics actually functions to strengthen the position of the Church – or so Simon De Brion argues –Siger’s escapes (unwitting and otherwise), and his subsequent recaptures, actually strengthen his resolve to stay with the Pope. For what does it matter, if everything that ever was, is, and will be, was determined by that first fall of the domino? Surprisingly, news of his inalterable fate comforts Siger, and while we, from our privileged place in history, know just which way fortune spins for our genius and our dunces, Deannuntis has created such a wonderful character that we can’t help hoping Siger figures out a way to circumvent his fate, that somehow he finds his way to a better outcome.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 3 readers
PUBLISHER: What Books Press (October 26, 2010)
REVIEWER: Devon Shepherd
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Publisher’s page on A.W. Deannuntis
EXTRAS: On the Matter of Death by A.W. Deannuntis
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Our very, very short review of:

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Another look at the medieval times:

The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland


    November 16, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
    Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Alternate History, Character Driven, Debut Novel, Humorous, Unique Narrative

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