As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel

As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel Peter Bruegel S Paintings A Peasant Wedding In A Barn, Hunters In The Snow, A Rollicking Street Festival, And Many Others Have Long Defined Our Idea Of Everyday Life In Sixteenth Century Europe They Are Classic Icons Of A Time And Place In Much The Same Way As Norman Rockwell S Depictions Of Twentieth Century America We Know Relatively Little About Bruegel, But After Years Of Research, Novelist Rudy Rucker Has Built Upon The What Is Known And Has Created For Us The Life And World Of A True Master Who Never Got Old In Sixteen Chapters, Each Headed By A Reproduction Of One Of The Famous Works, Rucker Brings Bruegel S Painter S Progress And His Colorful World To Vibrant Life, Doing For Bruegel What The Best Selling Girl With A Pearl Earring Did For Vermeer We Follow The Artist From The Winding Streets Of Antwerp And Brussels To The Glowing Skies And Decaying Monuments Of Rome And Back He And His Friends, The Cartographer Ortelius And Williblad Cheroo, An American Indian, Are As Vivid On The Page As The Multifarious Denizens Of Bruegel S Unforgettable CanvasesHere Is A World Of Conflict, Change, And Discovery, A World Where Carnival Battles Lent Every Day, Preserved For Us In Paint By The Engaging Genius You Will Meet In The Pages Of As Above So Below

Rudolf von Bitter Rucker is an American mathematician, computer scientist, science fiction author, and one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre He is best known for his Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which won Philip K Dick awards Presently, Rudy Rucker edits the science fiction webzine Flurb.

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  • Paperback
  • 320 pages
  • As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel
  • Rudy Rucker
  • English
  • 14 February 2018
  • 9780765304049

10 thoughts on “As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel

  1. says:

    It seems so tough to portray real life artists in historical fictions So often, you get the sense that the portrayer hasn t the faculty to grasp the significance of the portrayed So often the need is felt to explain how a work came to be For example, in Shakespeare in Love, we saw things in Shakespeare s environment which supposedly fed directly into his plays There s to art than the simple movement from observations on life to portrayal of life, whether with words or with brush There s a complex alchemy inside the mind that takes the witnessed and threads it with other thoughts dreams, fancies, knowledge of the work of other artists, and of course intuition But to tread into this territory is to venture into the area where language loses its power to explain Indeed, the most successful depictions of artists in art seem to be ones where the artist abandons the futile task of explaining his subject matter, and setting about creating his or her own artwork that explores, questions, and even tries to outwit the honored artist of old It is for this reason that literal translations of old works and artists so very rarely work how is it appropriate to create a literal loaf from metaphorical dough Rucker has some success in creating his own artistry from Bruegel, organizing his exploration of the Flemish master s adult life into a course that seems paradoxically both meandering and purposeful For example, he uses the symbolism of the gallows to frame his novel as a whole other connections which help tie chapters together keep the experience from feeling too episodic And he allows Bruegel to think complex thoughts about his own art and how his art has worth in the world than one typically expects from stories like this However, a bit too often the urge to simply explain the art in the context of its times takes over, and at times like that the life seems to drain just a bit Thankfully, however, it isn t too often that the novel feels like Rucker checking off events from a list, which makes the experience a worthwhile visit, if not quite the sort of transcendent art that one might get from seeing Hunters in the Snow in person.

  2. says:

    I highly recommend this book It is the fictional imagining of the life of Peter Bruegel The author combined the few known facts about Bruegel s life with the history and the culture of the Netherlands in the 1500s to craft a realistic and intriguing novel Each chapter has a Bruegel painting featured at the beginning and vividly describes the events in the artist s life and times that shaped the painting My only criticism of the book is that I wish the reproductions of Bruegel s paintings were in color to match the vibrancy of the characters, events and culture depicted by Rudy Rucker.

  3. says:

    I had never heard of Rucker before I picked up this book he has written non fiction and science fiction, but I believe this is his first novel Little is known of Peter Bruegel s life, but Rucker has taken what facts there are and written an enjoyable account of life in the Low Countries in the 16th century, when ruled by Spain and the Spanish inquisition against the Calvinists was becoming and feared and widespread Rucker s notes for this book can be found on his web site with explanations of the lives of the characters in the book who are real historical people I was impressed with how much Rucker had to know or learn before he wrote the book about methods of painting, and I was very interested in the veiled political commentaries that he put in his work, even one that seemed just to be an illustration of a Bible story, or pictures of the seasons.

  4. says:

    review of Rudy Rucker s As Above, So Below A Novel of Peter Bruegel by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE August 22, 2019 See entire review here I ve read 14 Rudy Rucker bks prior to this one They ve all been SF I like them I was delighted to find this, a non SF bk based around the life of one of my favorite painters I respect diversity in people s creative outputs w this bk of Rucker s my perception of his diversity goes up a notch whatever that metaphor may mean here I have to draw this, he told de Vos He shrugged the strap of his satchel from his shoulder, peeled off his skirted jerkin, and sat down cross legged upon it He found ink and pen and a bottle of water in his satchel, and pulled a sheet of paper out of a special flap in his jerkin s lining All the while he was staring at the mountain It s quite unlike what we ve seen in paintings back in the Low Lands, Martin Different than what we ve been taught It s less contorted, like a living thing It s saying hello to me p 12 Wch brings me to Hylozoism, an idea that I recall Rucker s writing introducing me to Prior to that, I thought of myself as of an Animist In Hylozoism, everything has life in Animism, everything has a soul Hylozoism stays open to philosophies that question the concept of the soul Does a mountain need a soul to say hello Maybe a Mountain Dew Bruegel lived in a time place far worse than anything I ve had to go through he managed to tightrope walk his way across the perils Religious intolerance ruled It could happen again Let s hope it doesn t To add to the pomp of the reception, an exemplary heretic had been hung upon a gibbet to one side of the arch, a stocky weaver who d made so bold as to own a printed copy of the Bible p 16 Yes, owning a bible was considered to be a heresy punishable by execution After all, the church wanted a monopoly Is it any wonder if greed s involved A sleek priest offered him a fresh printed indulgence, good for one hundred years off from the time that was owed to Purgatory as a residual temporal debt even after a sin was forgiven The curtained confession booth resembled an outhouse p 36 What a racket Charge people to lessen an imaginary punishment in an imaginary after death world In the meantime, make the real world hell for everyone except the racketeers Fortunately, there was another world competing for conceptual dominance, a world where cartographers were paying attn to reality Ortelius loved maps, he took pride in moving them from city to city, spreading the new God s eye worldview far and wide There was a kind of alchemy to a map First the mapmaker refined the ore of travelers and surveyors reports into numbers on an ideal mathematical globe even if some reports were given only as sun positions and hours of travel Next came the mysterious algorithmic transformations that projected the curved path of Earth s ideal globe down into a flat rectangle And then came the illumination of the map p 51 I despise the Church, said Williblad quietly I d like to see it wiped off the face of the earth There is no God, Abraham Williblad stopped and smiled oddly, his lively eyes gauging Ortelius s reaction I speak these thoughts to keep from bursting In so doing, I place my life into your hands But I sense your readiness to be than a passing friend p 101 Well would ya look at that I m already up to page 101 I ain t hardly sd nuthin Yes, the church I think somebody sd something like Thou Shalt Not Kill a long time ago but they didn t really mean it The Church s true precept is I don t practice what I preach because I m not who I m preaching to on the left was a gallows with three dark, ragged shapes suspended beneath it Crows circled the gibbets, cawing and feeding And on the other side of the road, red shirted soldiers sat drinking before the inn Seeing them filled Bruegel with a visceral fear Thanks to the Blood Edicts of the foreign tyrant King Philip, the crime of heresy was to be punished only by death, with no lesser penalties to be contemplated Out here in the country there were no limits upon what the occupying soldiers might do I heard about these hangings earlier this week, said Franckert Two women and a man They preached that all property should be held in common, but in the end, these three rebels couldn t share things any better than the rest of us It seems the two women came to a falling out over the man, and one of them set the Inquisitors upon the other two pp 114 115 Never collaborate w an Inquisitor What we need instead of Inquisitors are Councils of Talking to Yourself. no, that s not right Present for the Landjuweel were than a dozen amateur theatrical groups the so called Chambers of Rhetoric pp 136 137 The Cornflowers fully lived up to their reputation for irreverance Their play was about a young man name Strotkop who wants to be an artist but whose father makes him become a priest Nevertheless Strontkop keeps on drawing His bishop tells that art is permissible only if he will paint religious scenes that the church can sell to pilgrims But Strontkop wants to paint naked women Unable to think of a way to find models, he hits upon the expedient of getting sinful women to undress for him inside the confession booth On the stage, the women an Strontkop were mostly hidden by the mock confession booth, but the priest s arm motions were clearly not those of a man drawing He was pulling himself off Complications followed, and at the finale, one of the women s boyfriends showed up in the confession booth and farted in the priest s face, the fart stimulated by a great blast of bagpipe music The audience became riotous with glee p 141 It s nice to know that they respected the most important thing of all the spirit of Rabelais Personally, the last time I tried to pull myself off it was like trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps, I just fell off the chair Strotkop s mistake was in not hiring models to pose as the Virgin Mary getting impregnated by God No matter how far she split her beaver the hymen wd still be there so what s to complain about What I want to know is is it true that Mary got the clap from God That might just be a matter of his orgasm being confused w a clap of thunder Alas, Bruegel, too, is a blasphemer he gets BUSTED b c his girlfriend snitches on him Gotta watch those girlfriends, they have no sense of proportion He slighted me, I think I ll have him tortured Fortunately for our pal Bruegie, his talent as a painter was recognized enough for him to become penalized by exploitation Do you mean a dungeon, Your Worship An artist needs light, said Granvelle And a bit of comfort No, my fine fowl, you ll have a gilded cage I ll give you a room at the Regent Margaret s provincial palace in Mechelen, halfway between Antwerp and Brussels I m there regularly to visit the Regent I ll keep a close eye on your progress I m to leave Antwerp This seemed to disturb Bruegel than anything that Gravelle had said so far Anja knew him as a creature of habit who hated to break his rituals of work For how long Let s try something like a year to start with, said Granvelle And then who knows We might send you into exile, or keep you on as Margaret s court painter, or mayhap hang you by the neck until dead It depends on your actions p 147 Yes, our boy Pieter gets spirited away by the naughty people Further intrigue happens in wch Bruegel gets forced into an assassination intrigue against an aristocrat who s been good to him but not necessarily to others Lazare brushed past Bruegel and pressed forward towards William, speaking rapidly in a low penetrating voice A word with you, Prince, said the Walloon Do you know that your tax assessor took my father s farm And that one of your soldiers dishonored my sister Eh Do you know how many you ve ruined in Luxembourg Matters were coming to a head p 203 Alas, it appears that Lazare s desire for vengeance was justified but Bruegel had managed to forewarn William so poor Lazare bit the dust instead I don t blame him, Bruegel had his own problems He poured a few inches of apple vinegar in each of the pots, and then had Bengt and Mayken put a number of beaten sheets of lead into each vessel The sheets, pounded to the thinness of paper, were separated by pebbles so that the vinegar would touch all the surfaces They covered the stack of pots back up with rotting compost and household dung According to Peter, the decay of the offal released a fire element, which over the period of a few weeks would combine with the fire within lead and vinegar to turn the earthen elements of lead into an air element of fine, flaking white pp 217 218 Seem like a professional hazard to you It does to me, these paints can be toxic Bruegel s using them constantly I remember once being stopped by a State Trooper for speeding He explained that people died in road accidents than they had in the Vietnam War I ve pointed out elsewhere that he must ve been excluding the Vietnamese casulaties Anyway, imagine a similar authority figure who stops you informs you that people died from falling afoul of the Catholic Church than from excessive exposure to lead paints There was hardly a man or a woman in the Low Lands who wasn t technically subject to execution, and where facts were lacking, they could easily be made up The Spanish rulers and their clergy were free to kill whomseover they chose Not only did they seek out the rebellious, the wealthy people and landowners were also being executed so that Spain could claim their goods p 235 Williblad Cheroo, a man of Native American origin who s been whisked away forced to live in European culture, proposes painting an abstraction to Bruegel Since Rucker s source material is sd to be sparse, I have to wonder whther he has any basis for this at all other than knowledge that Native American culture had abstract art long before the Europeans did Religion s in those panels, just the same, said Bruegel, Nature is God s body And men the lice upon her, said Cheroo, Why not leave us vermin out of your next picture entirely Paint the land alone, and, once you ve mastered that, paint a landscape with no land at all How do you mean said Bruegel, smiling a little at Cheroo s fantasy Paint something with no human name on it Paint a color or a shape something that s not a picture of anything When I was a boy, there was an elder of our tribe who d pour out different colored sands to make wonderful patterns Sunbursts and stars and whorls and zigzags p 246 One of the things I particularly like about this bk is the way that Rucker manages to bring in major historical elements via his characters s connection to them I m glad to have Mercator placed in time w Bruegel the Inquisition Are you the first to think of a book of maps, Abraham said Mayken, sidestepping the quarrel that Williblad perversely sought The Italians have made some attempts at such a thing, said Ortelius But they mix everything into a jumble with no two images laid out the same way I discussed the idea of a uniform map book with Mercator not so long ago, and he said he d been considering something like the same idea He d wanted to call his book an Atlas, after the mythical Greek giant who carried the earth upon his back Be that as it may, he s being good enough to let me finish my version first p 257 The first world atlas to be published was the Theatrum orbis terrarum Theatre of the world in 1570 The Flemish cartographer, Abraham Ortelius orig i nal collection was in Latin and contained 70 maps on 53 pages Between 1570 1612, numerous updated editions were published including those in six other languages German, Dutch, French, Spanish, English and Italian Although the word atlas here is retrospective i.e it did not exist as a term in Ortelius time , the collection was the first time maps had been presented in this way Uh, oh Is Rucker busted here w his use of the word Atlas Or is the Guiness Book of World Records wrong They misspelled original I corrected it so that s one strike against them Now it seems that back in them thar days there were Christian ICONCLASTS It will be a small matter to destroy these graven images, which are only a species of idolatry, the Swiss preacher shouted For think, my Brethren, the Romish Church has done us a thousand times hurt and hindrance through their persecutions We propose to burn paintings and to smash stone statues, but the ecclesiastics have burnt and broken those statues which God Himself has made, namely our dearest friends, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers p 260 It s always something, right You ve got the religious nuts who re killing people then you ve got the religious nuts who re destroying the things the people make If people concentrated on making interesting things stopping the nuts from killing people then most people wd be much better off With a wild shout, the crowd dragged the Madonna s effigy out onto the floor, tore off her vestments and hacked her to pieces yes, some of the men turned out to be carrying axes, sledgehammers, and crowbars beneath their loose gray Beggar robes More image breakers came streaming in the cathedral s side doors, several of them bearing ladders p 263 Now breaking art instead of killing people is an improvement but I have a respect for the skill of the makers hate to see it disrespected But, HEY , that was the 16th century, not NOW, eh See entire review here

  5. says:

    AS ABOVE, SO BELOW A Novel of Peter Bruegel by Rudy RuckerIf you have read Girl with a Pearl Earring and enjoyed the references to Vermeer s paintings, you will likely enjoy reading Rudy Rucker s imagined tale of artist Peter Bruegel s progress with his many paintings The story ends before his two sons, Little Peter and Jan, took up the brush.Each of Rucker s chapters is headed with the title and photograph of a Bruegel painting The journey begins in the French Italian Alps and Rome, but quickly moves to Belgium, mainly in Antwerp and Brussels.Life in the middle 1500s was not easy, what with the Inquisition breathing down your neck or lopping off your head at the neck But even with an uneasy certainty that someone you knew would soon be hung or headless, life went on in soap opera fashion Family life, friendships, feuds and patched relationships abound with humor and tragedy mingled together in a fascinating narrative.Throughout, Bruegel s dry humor and joie de vivre shine a bright central light on the tale and move the story forward A comment that especially struck me was That was the thing about art your fingers spilled the secrets of your soulbefore you knew them yourself Another comment that remains vivid in my mind is presented after Peter Bruegel witnesses an everyday scene in a street filled with descriptive characters and everyday occurrences life was endlessly rich and endlessly various,and it could take a man eight years simply to paintone single moment of one single day This intimate look at Bruegel s Beekeepers, Beggars, and Birdsnesters is well worth reading.

  6. says:

    Very fascinating fictional account of Peter Bruegel s life Several famous paintings by the master were cleverly employed to propel the plot However, the stories got somewhat way too far fetched The author, obviously no artist, gave a pedestrian account of how inspirations and commissions came to Bruegel and the depictions of process of creations were less than inspired The most serious flaw was the repetitive expositions historical information best feed in through footnotes here and the stiff dialogues That said, it was a fascinating story about a fascinating artist in a most stirring time I remembered many paintings I saw in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and some in Rotterdam and I browsed a copy of a monograph on Bruegel and learned a scholarly account of those famous paintings and that made a complimentary study of this master After you ve read this novel, it would be great to read similar monograph to fully grasp his achievement and his time.

  7. says:

    One of the most insightful bios of an artist I ve ever come across Reconstructing the life of Bruegel from little than his paintings and a lot of historical research into the period Rucker creates chapters of an artist s life wherein the particular painting is conceived and created The faces of the people in his works can be matched with characters in this fictional recreation A truly wonderful book.

  8. says:

    As Above, So Below A Novel of Peter Bruegel, by Rudy Rucker 2002, 318 pages In sixteen chapters, each headed by one of the artist s famous works, Rucker brings Bruegel s painters progress and his colorful world to vibrant life, doing for Bruegel what the bestselling Girl With A Pearl Earring did for Vermeer We follow the artist from the winding streets of Antwerp and Brussels to the glowing skies and decaying monuments of Rome .com book description.

  9. says:

    A very enjoyable fictionalized and well researched biography Now I just wish I could see the paintings in person.

  10. says:

    I have an interest in art history and was fascinated to read what is known about Peter Bruegel s life and artwork Rudy Rucker tells a very interesting story using descriptive writing to describe Bruegel s painting style, his paintings, and the challenges he faced in the 1500 s during the time of political and religious unrests He d painted what he saw, and than that, he d painted what he couldn t see, the God that fills the world, as above, so below

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