The Voyage of the Short Serpent Hardcover – Jan 10 2008
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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.)
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"'A novel of staggering originality... I'll go out on a literary limb and bet you have never read anything quite like The Voyage of the Short Serpent' - Robert Littell 'What erudition, what humour, and above all, what ferocity!... It's a delirious parable, astonishing, licentious, and jubilant' Figaro 'A voyage of ignominy, vice, and deprivation. The sacrificial fury that's nourished in the world of Bernard du Boucheron's novel of impeccable prose has redefined literary mores' Le Point" --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
If you are looking for a book that is easy to read and funny as hell, then this is a must read.
I caught a lot of the symbolism... just look at the title! A book about "The Serpent" entering yet another unspoiled wilderness and wreaking havoc? Or how about the "shortcomings" of the bishop and the "Voyage" of his "Short Serpent" which spawned an illegitimate child? Its all in there, but to what end? Maybe I'm jaded because I'm surrounded by people equally amoral as the characters in this book; I've just survived eight years of Government-sanctioned amorality (Bush/Cheney - the Darkest Years of the USA). The atrocities in the book failed to move me. The symbolism failed to elicit more than a ho-hum. Other books excite me; I know it isn't a medication imbalance on my part... so that leaves the author/translator as the source.
My rule of thumb is simple: will I pass this book on to a friend with a recommendation that they *have* to read it, will I keep it for myself and make my friends buy their own, or do I pass this book on to the thrift store?
Sorry, I can't rate this one higher than thrift store fare. Can't recommend it. Can't keep it. Bye bye du Boucheron. Waste of money? Didn't pay full price for it, so I don't feel bad. Waste of time? Well... when I read a good book I carry away something worthwhile from it - something sticks with me inside, often forever. I didn't bring anything away from this book. When you expend time and effort, and when you're finished you have nothing to show for it, haven't you fulfilled the requirements for "waste of time?" This was not my all-time "waste of time" (See Illywacker) but "Serpent" does fall within that category.
End of rant.