Pilrig Publishing £9.99
IKON is a picaresque novel, set in the closing years of the
Byzantine Empire. Our young hero is Ioánnis, a fisherman on an
island where St John the Evangelist spent his last days. Ioánnis's
youth, spent learning philosophy with the village priest and
getting to know the lovely Anna, is rudely interrupted, and he then
embarks on a long odyssey, which takes him to Lebanon, Syria,
Anatolia, Constantinople, and Italy.
Along the way, he witnesses several key events, such as the
Councils of Ferrara and Florence, and the fall of Constantinople to
the Turks. Several historical personages make fleeting appearances,
such as the Sultan Mehmet and the Patriarch Gennadios.
Apart from being a picaresque novel, following one man's life
and adventures, the novel also represents a spiritual journey.
Ioánnis is on a voyage of discovery: this partly involves love and
sex, but it also involves religion. His first teacher is, by the
standards of the 15th century, something of a heretic, and the
novel gradually unfolds the supposed truth that Islam and
Orthodoxy share a great deal, while at the same time accusing the
Western Christians of being power-hungry control freaks.
This, of course, does have some historical basis, as Gennadios
seemingly preferred to live under the Turks than to be reconciled
with Rome; but the closing vision, which suggests that God is an
absent deity, is one that all theists, and most students of
history, will reject as implausible.
Nevertheless, the journey to this end point is certainly an
interesting and entertaining one, and, if it is the job of a novel
to do this - as well as to get the reader to think - then this book
Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith is the author of Narrative Theology
and Moral Theology (Ashgate, 2007).