The Pope's Rhinoceros by Lawrence Norfolk
A Novel

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The Pope's Rhinoceros is a vivid, antic, and picaresque novel spun around one of history's most bizarre chapters: the sixteenth-century attempt to procure a rhinoceros as a bribe for Pope Leo X. In February 1516, a Portuguese ship sank off the coast of Italy. The Nostra Senora de Ajuda had sailed fourteen thousand miles from the Indian kingdom of Gujarat. Her mission: to bribe the "pleasure-loving Pope" into favoring expansionist Portugal over her rival Spain with the most exotic and least likely of gifts -- a living rhinoceros. Moving from the herring colonies of the Baltic Sea to the West African rain forest, with a cast of characters including an order of reclusive monks and Rome's corrupt cardinals, courtesans, ambassadors, and nobles, The Pope's Rhinoceros is at once a fantastic adventure tale and a portrait of an age rushing headlong to its crisis.

About Lawrence Norfolk

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Lawrence Norfolk is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Lemprière's Dictionary, The Pope's Rhinoceros, and In the Shape of a Boar. He lives in London.
Published April 14, 2003 by Grove Press. 592 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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While the long voyage out and back is the story's centerpoint, it's only one part of Norfolk's considerable canvas, which also includes a peculiar, isolated order of monks, the plots and counterplots of two intemperate empires, and a wonderful portrait of a decrepit but nonetheless vivid Rome, fi...

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Publishers Weekly

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Set in the 16th century, Norfolk's epic second novel takes its premise from an actual event: an unsuccessful Portuguese attempt to bring a rhinoceros to Rome by ship, in order to curry political favor with Pope Leo X.

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