Julian is a story about a man, and just that is the greatest triumph of Vidals work. Be it a film or book about a significant historical figure, the figure is usually treated like a Ubermensch or Saint, ignoring the most interesting part, the contradictions and complexities of their person. Bad authors can’t help but chain history in the narrative fallacy.
Julian is a man forged, man who grows, a bit in the right, a bit in the wrong way, changes, makes real friends, which he, at times, forgets due to the influence of greedy people. People who only see him as a tool or stepping stone to their vane dreams of a luxurious, decadent future.
He’s wise and rational, but even he succumbs to the weaknesses of protecting his convictions by ignoring his reason. Thou shall not commit cognitive dissonance is a rule many religions could profit from.
The rush of ambition he feels, as well as the sense of being a singular person in the history of mankind, makes him susceptible to being used by the vanity of those around him. He crowns himself the heir to Mitras on earth, fighting the new sickness with the old. Later he even sees himself as the reincarnation of Alexander the Great. He’s like a racing horse, running straight the racing track that is his imagines destiny. Sadly the real road he’s walking down on is that of his demize. Hoping to become a whole Era, a history book onto itself he’s reduced to barely a fusnote in history. They sickness that defeated him ends up the creator of history as well as the global opium.
Mixed with his usual wit and jabs at both religion and politics makes this novel a truly delightful read.