In the early summer of 1983, John Forde, a 24 year old American, arrives in Florence to begin work on a dissertation. He at once seeks out an immensely distinguished art historian, Sir Christopher Noble-Nolan, nearly half a century older than himself, by whom he has long been obsessed. By the end of that summer, John finds himself working for, living with and passionately in love with Sir Christopher.
Without qualm, John definitively severs all ties to his past, the parched landscape of his middle-class childhood in Providence, Rhode Island and the oppressive pedantry of graduate school in New York and allies himself to the empyrean realm of Sir Christopher’s large, art-filled, book-laden apartment in a Renaissance palace.
From his first sighting of Sir Christopher, imposingly perched on a dais whilst delivering a lecture on Botticelli’s illustrations to the Divine Comedy, John is convinced that ‘he finally beheld his master and author’, and there is no length to which he will not go to, no lie he will not tell, no debasement to which he will not submit in order to realise his dream of becoming Sir Christopher’s beloved disciple.
Told with brutal honesty and constructed with architectural precision, The Disciple unfolds over more than a decade, behind a veil of arch intellectual calm. It depicts a vanished world, yet menacingly lurking behind this civilised façade, seethes the underworld of John Forde’s inchoate ambition, festering rancour and unvoiced longing. The Disciple is a tale of the inextricably entwined emotions of loyalty and betrayal, pedagogy and lies, trust and suspicion, love and hatred.