Spartacus (Fast novel)
Cover of the first US hardcover edition
|Publisher||Howard Fast / Blue Heron Press|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Spartacus is a 1951 historical novel written by Howard Fast. It is about the historic slave revolt led by Spartacus around 71 BCE The book inspired the 1960 film directed by Stanley Kubrick and the 2004 TV adaptation by Robert Dornhelm.
The novel changes between third-person omniscient past and present tenses. The novel's narrative structure is that several Roman aristocrats (Crassus, Gracchus, Caius, and Cicero) meet, in the past tense, to relate tales of the events in Spartacus's life and uprising. The tales are told in the present tense directly by the narrator, with details going far beyond the Romans' possible knowledge. The novel deviates from and extends known historical facts.
The novel's central theme is that man's most basic universal values are freedom, love, hope, and finally life. Oppression and slavery strip these away until the oppressed have nothing to lose by uprising. Oppressive systems are held together by political systems. Spartacus stands as an eternal symbol of how man must fight against political systems that oppress man's values:
A time would come when Rome would be torn down--not by the slaves alone, but by slaves and serfs and peasants and by free barbarians who joined with them. And so long as men labored, and other men took and used the fruit of those who labored, the name of Spartacus would be remembered, whispered sometimes and shouted loud and clear at other times.
Howard Fast self-published the novel in the United States during the McCarthy era in 1951. He began writing it as a reaction to his imprisonment for charges stemming from his earlier involvement in the Communist Party USA. He had refused to disclose to Congress the names of contributors to a fund for a home for orphans of American veterans of the Spanish Civil War. He was imprisoned for three months in 1950 for contempt of Congress.
The final page of the first edition describes some of his difficulties in publishing:
"Readers who may wonder at the absence of a publisher's imprint are informed that this book was published by the author. This was made necessary when he learned that no commercial publisher, due to the political temper of the times, would undertake the publication or distribution of the book. Its publication was made possible by hundreds of people who believed in the book and bought it in advance of publication, so that the money would be forthcoming to pay for its printing. The author wishes to thank these people with all his heart. He is also most grateful to the many people who helped with the preparation of the manuscript, with the editing of it, and with the design and manufacture of the book. He hopes that for some future edition, at a time when it would not subject them to danger and reprisal, to be able to name these people and extend personal thanks to each in turn."
In the 1991 paperback version (ibooks, distributed by Simon & Schuster; ISBN 0-7434-1282-6), the author has a short introduction, "Spartacus and the Blacklist," which expands on the conditions surrounding the writing and publishing of the work.
See also 
- Spartacus, 1931 novel by Scottish writer, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
- The Gladiators, Arthur Koestler's 1939 novel on Spartacus.