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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2011

1 - THE UNFINISHED REVOLUTION

Summary

There are infinite worlds both like and unlike this world of ours. … [W]e must believe that in all other worlds there are living creatures and plants and other things we see in this world.

–Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.), letter to Herodotus

The young scholar clutches the book to his chest as he works his way through the crowd. Campo dei Fiori is packed; it's a jubilee year, and Rome teems with pilgrims, beggars, and pickpockets. He edges forward, brushing aside the vendors who tug at his sleeve. Days earlier, a small item in a local broadsheet caught his eye. A Dominican monk from Nola was to be put to death, having exhausted the patience and goodwill of the authorities. The scholar sighs. His heart is heavy at the prospect. It is not yet a century since the death of Leonardo, but enlightenment has dimmed so much that it seems like eons.

With difficulty, the scholar climbs scaffolding behind a merchant stall so he can see over the heads of the mob. Yelling at the far side of the square tells him that Bruno has arrived, having been paraded naked through the streets of Rome. He is bound to the stake with thick rope while a local functionary reads the charges. The scholar can only catch fragments: “impenitent heretic … failure to recant … persistent follies.”

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