Plunder with Intent is a beautiful story of love, justice and tragedy about the family of a 19th Century English aristocrat who steals a line of beautiful marble statues (the Parthenon or Elgin marbles) from their rightful home in Greece. The novel follows the story of the statues from their creation in 5th Century BC to present day; friendships, love affairs and destines are shaped by people’s interaction to the statues.
After reading this short introduction I was really curious about Plunder with Intent and sent a few questions to author J.E. D’Este Clark to discover more. Here are her answers.
When and how did you fall in love with the Classical world and all-things-Greek?
My love affair with the Classical world began when I was a child. Always asking ‘why’ from the age of eight, lead me to read the classics and study the great Greek philosophers. If you want to understand yourself there is no better place to start than with Plato, Aristotle, and of course my favourite, Socrates, who features throughout Plunder with Intent. Homer’s Odyssey was my next big love, and I read it three times while researching my novel. Reading it as a young person brought the ancient wisdom even closer and has stayed with me ever since. I fell in love with classical architecture while studying history of art and design at university. Those massive Doric columns enchanted me. There was, of course, a more romantic reason for my passion for the Classical world, but perhaps I’ll keep him a secret…
What relevance can the beauty of classic art and ancient history have to present-day hyper-technological world?
I must of course refer to absolute perfection and the beauty of the Parthenon Marbles, sculptures - which have never been able to be replicated - set within the mighty Parthenon itself and erected in 5th Century BC in Athens. As the temple of the Greek goddess, Athena Parthenos represents the pinnacle of the classical art world. This is relevant even in the 21st Century. The Romantic poet Shelly said, “beauty is truth, truth beauty - this is all; you know on earth, and all you need to know”. Perhaps we should listen to the great poet.
I firmly believe that beauty in art will ultimately save us! Technology is ugly and reflected in Contemporary art. The internet is without beauty, soulless and our souls are in peril. Sadly, the pursuit of beauty is no longer on the agenda in our modern world and I believe we suffer greatly because of this. Therefore, we have no other option but to revisit history; return to the classical world, discover the absolute perfection, the beauty reflected in ages past.
Your novel has 3 different heroes living in 3 different time lines. Who are they and how much did you have to work on researching the differente eras?
It took eight years of intense research to write about the different time lines within the novel. Trying to write about everyday life in ancient Greece was extremely difficult. It’s one thing to study classical art but to bring the ancient world to life was a challenge!
In Part One, 5th Century BC in Athens, we meet a young stone-carver, a twelve-year-old boy called Menelaus. I read about a legend in Greek literature about a brilliant young protege who became a hero to the Hellenic people. He would live on, forever, in his art, within the stone itself.
In the early 19th century, in Athens, our hero is a young boy called Maximilian, who witnesses the plunder of the Parthenon by his uncle, Lord Quimby. Max is the modern Greek name for Menelaus. The extensive research in Part Two took me to Athens for the very first time. The Parthenon, even in its so-called ruinous state captured my heart and my imagination.
In Part Four, modern day, we come across another Maximilian, a Cambridge Classics scholar, who falls in love with a sculptor in Athens and develops a passion for all things Greek. Our final hero is intelligent and curious. He takes up the cause of the first Menelaus and fights for the return of the marbles to Greece; a cause very close to my own heart.
If you could go back and live in the past, which period would you choose and why?
If you guessed 5th Century BC you would be right! Not difficult to believe is it?
I have lived within the pages of my novel about ancient Greece for the last ten years so as you well imagine, the ancient customs of Greece have become an integral part of my life.
I have gleaned so much while researching Athena Parthenos, the goddess of wisdom, who was empowered at birth to stand alone. I think she could become a wonderful new role model for young women in this celebrity driven techno-focused world where lip gloss and the search for “The One” sums up the extent of modern-age pursuits.
Could you tell us something about your work as a supporter of the BCRPM British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece?
I started writing the plot plan for Plunder with Intent in 2008 while researching another novel about the French Revolution. I was so fascinated with Lord Elgin and his plunder of the Parthenon that I contacted Eleni Cubitt, the Honorary Secretary of the BCRPM. I told her that I wanted to tell the truth about what really happened to the Parthenon. Mrs Cubitt invited me to attend the meeting of the Committee in London in 2009 and when I listened to the speeches, learned of the plight of the Greek people to get their marbles back I decided to join their cause, become an avid campaigner for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
I finished the book in 2016 and it was during that year that I was asked to speak at a conference in Athens about my work and my book. I strongly believe soft diplomacy is the answer to the debate; as political and academic debate has failed to work. My book is a testament to the Committee and I will continue to be a firm supporter until the Parthenon Marbles are returned to Greece.
Plunder with Intent by J.E. D’Este Clark is out now. Amazon link here
The Parthenon Marbles finally come home in this powerful, brilliantly crafted novel of epic proportion like the very Parthenon itself.
Plunder with Intent, a hugely important work was written to capture the imagination and the sympathy of the world by taking the long-standing, extremely complex debate of the fate of the marbles outside the world of the academically invested, beyond the political arena.
IT IS TIME TO CHANGE HISTORY!
As the marbles cannot speak for themselves J.E. D’Este Clark has chosen to speak for them. She has used fiction to tell the truth, the terrible tragedy befallen the Hellenic people. This is a story about their pain, sorrow, grief and extreme loss they have suffered for the last two hundred years. Above all, it a story about the search for truth and justice, questioning the purity of man’s soul.
5th Century BC, Athens
Humble sculptor, Nikodimos, toils away in his workshop to create a sumptuous marble masterpiece of Athena Parthenos. His beautiful, noble creation is destined to be housed in the Parthenon. Nikodimos has no reason to suspect that it will not remain in its rightful home forever…
19th Century AD, Athens
Lord Quimby, rich, powerful and greedy, is enchanted by the wealth of the Parthenon. Unconcerned by the locals’ distress, Lord Quimby plunders the Parthenon of her finest artefacts. His twelve-year-old nephew, Maximilian, helplessly watches as his Uncle’s savage devastation of the treasure as it is shipped off to England, never to be seen again on Greek soil.
Young Cambridge student Max Perceval unearths the horror of his late ancestor’s murky deeds and realises all is not what it seems in the Museum of Classical Antiquities. In order to locate the treasured marble, and right the wrongs of the past, Max must take matters into his own hands and confront the ghosts of the Quimby dynasty.
Based on a True Story
The Parthenon Marbles are a collection of Classical Greek marble sculptures that form part of the Parthenon temple in Athens, built nearly 2,500 years ago. They are considered amongst the finest examples of Greek art. In the early 19th century however, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire removed about half of the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon. They were first exhibited in 1807 in London before they went on show at the British Museum in 1817. Ever since the sculptures have been on display to the public in the British Museum. However, since the early 1830s, Greek governments have argued for the return of all the Parthenon sculptures to Athens and this debate is still ongoing today.
Joanna D’Este Clark fell in love with the classical world and all-things-Greek while studying architecture and history of art at a Canadian university. For the last ten years she has been a strong supporter of the BCRPM (British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece). She is a member of Marbles Re-United, and in 2016 was invited to speak about her exciting new work at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
Joanna lives in London although she dreams of spending a lot more time in Greece. Plunder with Intent is inspired by her passion to see the Parthenon Marbles finally come home.