The twenty-five year old Christopher Columbus, shipwrecked off the Portuguese coast, makes his way to Lisbon and is reunited with his younger brother Bartholomeo, a gifted cartographer. The Genoese brothers spend the next eight years drumming up support for Christopher's great venture, the westward voyage in search of a quicker route to the Spice Islands and India. Unaware that the North American continent lies in their way, they call it the Indies Enterprise.
Erik Orsenna's fascinating novel is the tale not of a voyage of exploration, but of the years preceding it and the many discoveries of a period of enlightened awakening and scientific curiosity. The story is told by Bartolomew in old age, living on the island of Hispaniola after Christopher's death. Despite its scientific spirit, the period witnessed the Inquisition and the savage persecution of Jews. The contradiction slowly dawns on Bartolomew through the "Indios" whose land has been taken, and who are now enslaved to the Europeans. Was the worm of man's inhumanity to man present in the fruit of their great enterprise all along?
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August 13, 2012
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