Charles H. Fischer - The Eunuch

Why would a eunuch want to write a secret history of life in the court of ancient Babylon's most famous king? To get back at his brother: that's why. Abducted as young boys by soldiers during the conquest of Nineveh, the brothers Uruk and Nergal receive very different fates in the ancient kingdom of Babylon. Uruk enjoys favors and climbs the Ziggurat of power to become a trusted advisor and the chief propaganda minister of King Nebuchadnezzar II, while Nergal is castrated and assigned to keep records of the daily life of the King's harem. While Uruk's cushioned prosperity is enviable, his real life is anxious because the King is viewed as the Divine Plowman who must seed the land and bring forth a bountiful harvest -- in other words, make whoopie in the harem and father many children because as the King's virility goes, so goes the harvest -- but the King is both crazy and chronically impotent, and a severe drought has withered the grain fields of the kingdom, so Uruk works nervously to spin propaganda into the official court records to hide the real state of affairs. Mostly out of contempt for his brother and his brother's official history, but also partly because of a deep respect for truth, Nergal the eunuch decides to write his his own secret, eye-witness, tell-all account of the real life inside the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, in all of its hilarious and embarrassing unseemliness. All goes well until, at a crucial moment during a high festival orgy, the King calls for Nergal to assist him in performing a mating ritual with a harem concubine chosen to be the symbolic holy bride of Babylon. Eager to please the King his master, Nergal unexpectedly receives a caressing touch from the concubine, Siduri of Megiddo, and he nearly swoons with love for her. The moment turns Nergal's life upside down and tosses him in a nearly treasonous bind of mixed loyalties. Although he does not know it at the time, the moment changes not only Nergal's life but also everyone else's, because it is the first of a series of events that result in the collapse of the kingdom. So The Eunuch is a laugh-out-loud funny narrative that begins as an effort to extirpate the lies of the hagiographic official history of Babylon, becomes a story of a very peculiar love triangle between a King with mental health issues, an alluring and manipulative concubine, and an obsessive eunuch slave-scribe, and then ends by describing the fall of an empire.

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