Captivity, György Spiró's bestselling novel and winner of the prestigious Aegon Literary Award in Hungary, is now out in English. So this 2005 page-turner is braced to conquer stateside audiences who like their period pageantry with a stout twist of comic relief. Set in the tumult of first century A.D. Rome, Captivity is a rousing classical epic in the vein of Ben Hur and I, Claudius, alloyed with Life of Brian-style satire for kicks. It follows the exploits of Uri, a young Roman Jew who may as well be a prototype of the nerdy schlemiel. But it's through this wayward picaro that we'll grasp the story's heft. Here's the publisher's blurb:
Frustrated with his feeble-bodied son, Uri’s father sends the young man to the Holy Land to bolster the family’s prestige. Suspected of spying in Jerusalem, Uri is imprisoned by Herod and shares a cell with Jesus (whom Spiró reimagines as a balding, middle-aged man) immediately before his crucifixion. Later, in cosmopolitan Alexandria, Uri undergoes a radical spiritual and carnal awakening before barely escaping a pogrom. Back in Rome, he joins the fight for justice on behalf of Alexandria’s butchered and displaced Jews. The campaign embroils Uri in the murderous, conspiratorial, and sex-fueled world of Imperial politics and gives him a front-row seat to the megalomaniacal reign and downfall of the emperor Caligula.
And here's Tablet magazine's review.