I'm looking for the name of a book I read three years ago (although it was published in the early 2000s maybe) about a boy who leaves his village and goes to a large city. The cover art is a corner of Bruegel's Tower of Babel artwork where men are discussing things at the foot of the tower. The part I'm referring to is the banner of this webpage.

A corner of Bruegel's Tower of Babel artwork, showing a group of people clustered together, with the foot of the Tower in the background

Click to enlarge

Once the boy arrives at the city I believe he befriends some beggars who fake illnesses. He then eventually becomes a painter's apprentice, before being forced to leave the city, and returns to his village with (this is a very specific part I remember) a handful of nutmegs. This is nutmegs as in the spice, whole nutmegs.

I also remember the name of the book being the name of the boy who is the main character. The author was almost certainly male. I believe the story ends with the boy growing old and regretting returning to the village with only nutmegs. It is not Senlin Ascends.

I have been searching for a year now. Is there anyone who has ever heard of any book like this and could point me to the title?

  • The first edition (1992) of George Steiner's After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation had the Tower of Babel on its front cover. amazon.com/George-Steiner-Aspects-Language-Translation/dp/…
    – DJohnson
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 19:21
  • In what time period is the book set? Also, is it meant as a book for children, for young adults, or for a general readership? These details will help narrow down the book. Thanks!
    – verbose
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 22:33


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