A Book of Correspondences
288 pp, 5.5 x 8.5, 9781584200208, $19.95 hbd
Great Barrington, Mass.: Lindisfarne Books (2003)
The ancient western Anatolian town of Nicaea (now Iznik in modern-day Turkey) was the site of two transforming events in Christian history. The first was a council of the Church in 325 CE that formalized the central doctrines of Christian faith under the aegis of the Roman Empire, while a second council in 787 CE sanctioned the creation of icons, thus facilitating the flourishing of Christian art. Nicaea is an imaginative recreation of what happened at those councils and the characters who have passed through Nicaea through the centuries. Using multiple narrative styles (letters, meditations, Arabic folktales, a Sufi zhikr, prayers and Turkish shadow-puppet theater) that reflect the dazzling diversity of peoples who have been in Nicaea, Nicaea explores the central themes of both councils: faith and political power, individual conscience and collective responsibility, art and truth, and the never-ending struggle between the call of the sacred and the allure of the profane.
“[A] finely wrought collection of short stories. Rowe’s prose is fluid and eloquent. . . . [T]his is an impressive fiction debut, and readers interested in early Christian history will find much food for thought here.”—Publishers Weekly
“Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and now, thanks to Nicaea, that ancient Turkish town will be added to the litany of spirit-birthing places. Finely crafted and researched, this book informs the mind as it joyously entertains the heart.”—David Appelbaum, editor, Parabola Magazine
“In evocative prose, Martin Rowe conjures awake the soul of a city that has played a pivotal role in shaping our modern-day religious landscape. Through his imaginative storytelling, he brings vibrantly to life the forgotten tales and lost characters of a city that, over the centuries, simmered in the magical stew of theological debate and mystical allure. His sentences spiral with the winding grace of an arabesque, gently leading the reader on an ever-deepening journey through the canyons of time. Nicaea is not just historical fiction—it is a meditation on the spirit of place, the mystery of faith, and the human struggle to decode the secrets of love.—Pythia Peay, author, Soul Sisters