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Voyage Of The Short Serpent [Hardcover]

Bernard Duboucheron , Hester Velmans

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Book Description

Jan. 29 2008
Years ago, a group left Europe to start a colony in Iceland, "the northernmost part of the world," as they called it--a frozen, desolate place where it is difficult to survive. They called the place New Thule. But as the years wear on, communication between New Thule and the people back home has become less and less frequent, until finally it stops altogether. They fear that the people of New Thule have gone native--or, worse yet, gone pagan. A cardinal orders an evangelical mission in order to see what has become of the people, and to revive their faith.

The ship, built especially for this journey, is called The Short Serpent, and at its helm is an abbot named Montanus. Across an ocean of hard and motionless ice under an indifferent sky, The Short Serpent carries its crew toward a horror that no one could conceive. The children of New Thule have taken on a truly primitive life, wandering on the ice in the search of seal meat, of mounds of peat, and of other warm bodies with which to copulate. Slowly, the crew of The Short Serpent begin to succumb to the filth and depraved excesses of New Thule.

Told in an elegant, compulsive, and increasingly unhinged style, Bernard du Boucheron's The Voyage of the Short Serpent is a masterpiece about mutable human morality in inhuman conditions--a story about truth, obsession, and the myth of utopia.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press (Jan. 29 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585679208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585679201
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 14 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,310,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A first-time novelist at 76, du Boucheron caused a literary sensation in France with this tale of a bishop's attempted reclamation of a medieval Scandinavian colony in Iceland. As the novel opens, Einar Sokkason, cardinal of Nidaros, learns that the Christian colony of New Thule has turned pagan. He dispatches Inquisitor Ordinary Bishop Insulomontanus to exorcise the colony with the aid of the stake, the wheel, the head vise, drawing and quartering, the slow hanging, and suspension from the feet or carnal parts. The bishop sets off peaceably in the company of the captain and crew of the Short Serpent, but as the Northern Sea freezes over, frostbite necessitates a few impromptu amputations. This turns out to be a prelude for what will come as the Serpent finally wends its way up the coast of the fjord, and the bishop is greeted by the curious colony of cannibals. Despite a competent translation, the cardinal and bishop's grave dictums are stilted, and the blood and gore titillate less than they bore. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


'Eccentric, slightly maddened and often brutally funny ... A tour de force'- New York Times. 'Prose as spare as the frozen landscape ... The novel reads as if Cormac McCarthy channeled Jack London - or, better yet, Dostoevsky' - Houston Chronicle. 'Pitch-Black comedy... [Du Boucheron's] hellish vision is based on a kind of bleak wisdom. [It] stinks of truth - but we must pray that it is not the whole truth, or the only truth' - LA Weekly. 'Like William Golding's Lord of the Flies, du Boucheron's novel is an experiment in Darwinism where the characters learn that it is not the survival of the fittest, but of those that can most readily learn to adapt' - Foreword. 'Laugh-out-loud funny and revolting at once ... A strangely pleasurable and completely riveting read' - Booklist. 'A spare, cunningly ironic novel... Sparse rawboned and fascinating.' - Kirkus. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So many levels of enjoyment Feb. 20 2008
By Jonathan Eells - Published on
The obvious level at which one engages this book - the wry account of a petty church potentate's predations (multiple redundancies there, I know) - is quite good enough. But then, keep in mind you're reading a Frenchman's take on GERMANS and other Europeans, and on the Catholic Church, and it all gets WAY MORE FUNNY. I say this without reservation, and I am German m'self. A marvelous, short, skewering read that is well worth the time.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vicious and Degraded April 19 2008
By Erica - Published on
This book is about the lost colony of Norseman in Greenland. It is apparently one of the mysteries of history - what happened to these people who existed for 500 years on the coast of Greenland and one day, sometime near 1500 AD, disappeared? Some say it was the cooling climate, some say they were butchered by visiting Europeans or the Inuit population, some say they left, some say they starved. Most say their somewhat rigid adherence to their culture, that of farming and strict religion, caused their demise.

This novel is about the journey of a Catholic bishop to the Norse colony. He is ordered there when rumors abound that the colony is succumbing to paganism and sodomy and incest - murder, fornication, hanging to get high, and every other sordid act of debauchery. The novel pairs vivid descriptions of starvation and privation and harrowing journeys over an ice-gripped landscape with equally vivid descriptions of the horrors of human culture gone awry - fornication, mutilation, murder, and excrement (hastily devoured by the desperate) - mostly told by the bishop himself, whose point of view is, at times, verging on the delusional.

I have heard that this book was made much of in France, for the particular reason that the author was 76 when he wrote this - his first novel - having worked most of his life in a decidedly un-literary administrative job. I am fully prepared to give it props on that account, since I seem to have spent my own youth uselessly and will no doubt continue to do so. I fully expect that I will not have accomplished anything of any note by 70, so this guy gives me a little bit of hope.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but sweet? Feb. 6 2011
By Kurt Switzer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Like many stories of medieval Greenland, this was a pretty depressing read. It is told mostly from the viewpoint of the priest, with a few chapters from the captains side. In general the delivery was to the point and anticlimactic, so if not paying close attention it was easy to miss important story points. The hardship in reaching Greenland, and parts of the captains tale while hunting reminded my of the desolation in Dan Simmon's "The Terror". I enjoyed the translation, the dialog and descriptions having a decided old world feel. Too many historical fictions feel contemporary and detract from the story.
2.0 out of 5 stars Must have lost something in the translation Feb. 5 2014
By Linda S. Beckman - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Okay, maybe I'm just a dunce, but it took me a very long time to see any comedy at all in this book. I guess I just didn't "get it."
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, Funny, and Disturbing June 6 2013
By C. H. Fleck - Published on
This is a dark, dark comedy. Or maybe it's a really funny tragedy. At any rate, it is clear that the author is familiar with medieval Scandinavian literature, because the "Voyage" is reminiscent of the extant literature of the period: blood soaked, sardonic, morally ambiguous. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this book is.

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