The Emperor Waltz

The Emperor Waltz

Philip Hensher

The most ambitious and daring novel novel yet from Booker Prize-shortlisted Philip Hensher.

‘A novel that’s almost fizzy to the touch … A performance of extraordinary flair and majesty from a writer who seems capable of anything’ Guardian

An astonishing novel, ‘The Emperor Waltz’ draws together various narrative strands into a compelling symphonic whole. In a third-century desert settlement on the fringes of the Roman Empire, a new wife becomes fascinated by a cult that is persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian. In 1922, Christian, a young artist, travels to Weimar to begin his studies at the Bauhaus, where the avant-garde confronts conservative elements around it. With postwar Germany in turmoil, while the Bauhaus attempts to explore radical ways of thinking and living, Christian finds that love will change him for ever. And in 1970s London Duncan uses his inheritance to establish the country’s first gay bookshop in the face of opposition from the neighbours and victimisation by the police.

Delving deep into the human spirit to explore connections between love, sanctity, commitment and virtue, Philip Hensher takes as his subject small groups of men and women, tightly bound together, trying to change the world through the example of their lives. ‘The Emperor Waltz’ is an absorbing echo-chamber of a novel, innovative and compelling, that explores what it means for us to belong to each other.

Reviews of The Emperor Waltz

    • ‘A novel that is always a joy to read … Read it and allow yourself to become a better person’ Independent
    • ‘Important … Glorious … He might have the iconoclastic temperament of a Kandinsky, but he is an old master when he glimpses the cat asleep under the table or the curve of a woman’s neck’ The Times
    • ‘A glittering performance … “The Emperor Waltz” has the depth and pleasurable density of a 19th-century fiction; I loved it’ Ian Thomson, Evening Standard
    • ‘Splendidly thought out and extraordinarily readable’ A S Byatt, Guardian
    • ‘A generous, courageous firework of a novel – a Roman candle, alive and fizzing in the hand’ New Statesman
    • ‘A book as joyful as its musical source … “The Emperor Waltz” is a beautiful book, both profound and funny. It is a powerful invocation to live a life of joy, surrounded by true friends’ Telegraph