The Plato Papers

A Novel

Look inside
From the imagination of one of the most brilliant writers of our time and bestselling author of The Life of Thomas More, a novel that playfully imagines how the "modern" era might appear to a thinker seventeen centuries hence.

At the turn of the 38th century, London's greatest orator, Plato, is known for his lectures on the long, tumultuous history of his now tranquil city. Plato focuses on the obscure and confusing era that began in A.D. 1500, the Age of Mouldwarp. His subjects include Sigmund Freud's comic masterpiece "Jokes and Their Relation to the Subconscious," and Charles D.'s greatest novel, "The Origin of Species." He explores the rituals of Mouldwarp, and the later cult of webs and nets that enslaved the population. By the end of his lecture series, however, Plato has been drawn closer to the subject of his fascination than he could ever have anticipated. At once funny and erudite, The Plato Papers is a smart and entertaining look at how the future is imagined, the present absorbed, and the past misrepresented.
The Lectures and Remarks of Plato on the Condition of Past Ages
--

Sparkler: Wait, Sidonia, wait!

Sidonia: Gladly.

Sparkler: I just saw you in the market. You were standing beneath the city wall, and so I assumed that you were listening to Plato's oration.

Sidonia: Correct in every respect, Sparkler. But I expected to see you there, since you always celebrate the feast of Gog.

Sparkler: I was about to cross the Fleet, and join you, when Madrigal stopped me.

Sidonia: What did he want?

Sparkler: Only something about a parish meeting. But, as a result, I missed Plato's opening remarks. I heard only his ending, when he spoke of his sorrow at the darkness of past ages.

Sidonia: It was all very interesting. There was a period when our ancestors believed that they inhabited a world which revolved around a sun.

Sparkler: Can it be true?

Sidonia: Oh yes. They had been told that they lived upon a spherical planet, moving through some kind of infinite space.

Sparkler: No!

Sidonia: That was their delusion. But it was the Age of Mouldwarp. According to Plato, the whole earth seemed to have been reduced and rolled into a ball until it was small enough to fit their theories.

Sparkler: But surely they must have known--or felt?

Sidonia: They could not have known. For them the sun was a very powerful god. Of course we were all silent for a moment, after Plato had told us this, and then he laughed.

Sparkler: He laughed?

Sidonia: Even when he had taken off the orator's mask, he was still smiling. Then he began to question us. 'Do you consider me to be small? I know that you do. Could you imagine the people of Mouldwarp to be much, much smaller? Their heads were tiny, and their eyes like pinpoints. Do you know,' he said, 'that in the end they believed themselves to be covered by a great net or web?'

Sparkler: Impossible. I never know when Plato is telling the truth.

Sidonia: That is what he enjoys. The game. That is why he is an orator.

Sparkler: We who have known him since childhood--

Sidonia: --never cease to wonder.

Sparkler: But who could be convinced by such wild speculations?

Sidonia: Come and decide for yourself. Walk with me to the white chapel, where he is about to begin his second oration.
Peter Ackroyd is the author of London: The Biography, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, Shakespeare: The Biography, and Thames: The Biography. He has written acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Charles Dickens, William Blake, Sir Thomas More, and Charlie Chaplin, as well as several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the Royal Society of Literature’s William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the South Bank Award for Literature. His most recent book was a brief biography of Wilkie Collins. View titles by Peter Ackroyd

About

From the imagination of one of the most brilliant writers of our time and bestselling author of The Life of Thomas More, a novel that playfully imagines how the "modern" era might appear to a thinker seventeen centuries hence.

At the turn of the 38th century, London's greatest orator, Plato, is known for his lectures on the long, tumultuous history of his now tranquil city. Plato focuses on the obscure and confusing era that began in A.D. 1500, the Age of Mouldwarp. His subjects include Sigmund Freud's comic masterpiece "Jokes and Their Relation to the Subconscious," and Charles D.'s greatest novel, "The Origin of Species." He explores the rituals of Mouldwarp, and the later cult of webs and nets that enslaved the population. By the end of his lecture series, however, Plato has been drawn closer to the subject of his fascination than he could ever have anticipated. At once funny and erudite, The Plato Papers is a smart and entertaining look at how the future is imagined, the present absorbed, and the past misrepresented.

Excerpt

The Lectures and Remarks of Plato on the Condition of Past Ages
--

Sparkler: Wait, Sidonia, wait!

Sidonia: Gladly.

Sparkler: I just saw you in the market. You were standing beneath the city wall, and so I assumed that you were listening to Plato's oration.

Sidonia: Correct in every respect, Sparkler. But I expected to see you there, since you always celebrate the feast of Gog.

Sparkler: I was about to cross the Fleet, and join you, when Madrigal stopped me.

Sidonia: What did he want?

Sparkler: Only something about a parish meeting. But, as a result, I missed Plato's opening remarks. I heard only his ending, when he spoke of his sorrow at the darkness of past ages.

Sidonia: It was all very interesting. There was a period when our ancestors believed that they inhabited a world which revolved around a sun.

Sparkler: Can it be true?

Sidonia: Oh yes. They had been told that they lived upon a spherical planet, moving through some kind of infinite space.

Sparkler: No!

Sidonia: That was their delusion. But it was the Age of Mouldwarp. According to Plato, the whole earth seemed to have been reduced and rolled into a ball until it was small enough to fit their theories.

Sparkler: But surely they must have known--or felt?

Sidonia: They could not have known. For them the sun was a very powerful god. Of course we were all silent for a moment, after Plato had told us this, and then he laughed.

Sparkler: He laughed?

Sidonia: Even when he had taken off the orator's mask, he was still smiling. Then he began to question us. 'Do you consider me to be small? I know that you do. Could you imagine the people of Mouldwarp to be much, much smaller? Their heads were tiny, and their eyes like pinpoints. Do you know,' he said, 'that in the end they believed themselves to be covered by a great net or web?'

Sparkler: Impossible. I never know when Plato is telling the truth.

Sidonia: That is what he enjoys. The game. That is why he is an orator.

Sparkler: We who have known him since childhood--

Sidonia: --never cease to wonder.

Sparkler: But who could be convinced by such wild speculations?

Sidonia: Come and decide for yourself. Walk with me to the white chapel, where he is about to begin his second oration.

Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of London: The Biography, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, Shakespeare: The Biography, and Thames: The Biography. He has written acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Charles Dickens, William Blake, Sir Thomas More, and Charlie Chaplin, as well as several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the Royal Society of Literature’s William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the South Bank Award for Literature. His most recent book was a brief biography of Wilkie Collins. View titles by Peter Ackroyd

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