Masters of Atlantis

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Masters of Atlantis is a 1985 novel by Charles Portis. [1]

Plot summary

In 1917, a mysterious beggar gives Lamar Jimmerson the Codex Pappus, a handwritten book allegedly containing the secrets of Atlantis. The beggar initiates Lamar into the Gnomon Society, and tells him of their current Master of Gnomons—Pletho Pappus. [2]

In 1919, Lamar travels to Malta in search of Pappus. Instead, he meets Sydney Hen and shares the Codex with him. The two study it for a period of time, until finally Sydney announces, "Can't you see it, man? You're already a Master! We're both Masters!" The two separate to set up their own Gnomon branches, Lamar in America and Sydney in Europe.

Lamar opens several Gnomon Temples in America, which attracts con man Austin Popper. Austin gains power in Lamar's temple and tries to popularize Gnominism in public appearances.

In 1940, Lamar formally "humbles" Austin, restricting him to menial work. This does not stop Sydney, who after a dramatic return, attempts to delegitimize the American branch of Gnomonism, in response to out-of-control "Popperism". The American and European Gnomon branches become splintered, and the conflict allows Austin to regain his power. The Gnomon conflict is overshadowed by the beginnings of World War II.

In 1942, Austin travels to Washington, DC, with Lamar. They fail in their original ambition to trade Gnomon secrets with the President and help win the war, but Austin makes a friend, Cezar Golescu, and an enemy, Pharris White.

In the postwar years, most Gnomon temples close down, and although still open, Lamar's temple remains heavily neglected. Austin makes a couple of returns, after long-unexplained absences. In his first return, he schemes to help Lamar run for public office, but is once more chased off by Agent White.

In Austin's second return, he helps Lamar and the remaining Gnomonists move out of the crumbling temple. He takes them to Texas, where they are hosted by longtime Gnomon Pillar leader Morehead Moaler. They are joined by Sydney and his remaining posse. Lamar and Sydney reconcile. Moaler's son, Golescu, and White conspire to have the Gnomons kicked out of Texas, but fail.

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  1. West, John Anthony (October 27, 1985). "Pletho Pappus and the Doughboy". The New York Times . Retrieved May 23, 2015.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. Burks, Brian (December 10, 1999). "Masters of Atlantis Review". B.B.'s Weekly Book Review. Archived from the original on April 2, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2018.