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یکشنبه 31 اردیبهشت 1396

A Search for the King by Gore Vidal fb2 ibooks

نویسنده: Nicole Thomas   

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Book description

If you know anything about the story of Robin Hood, you probably know that it ends with good King Richard returning from the crusades just in time to save England from the clutches of wicked King John. What is perhaps less well known is just what kept him away for so long: on the way home from Palestine, Richard was captured by the Duke of Austria, who accused him of murdering a relative, and he was kept prisoner for a couple of years until he was eventually ransomed and released. Another legend grew up around him at this time: that a travelling bard named Blondel travelled Europe looking for the king, with the aim of somehow aiding in his release. And this is the story of A Search for the King, an early novel by Gore Vidal.‘Early’ means different things to different writers, of course; published in 1950, this was Vidal’s fifth novel, one of many in a publishing career which looks now seems incomparably long and varied. Prior to this I had never actually read any of his books, and this one seems like an odd place to start; though it’s not without charm, it isn’t an exceptional book either, and had it been written by anyone else it would probably have quietly disappeared into the silent halls of the great library stacks in the sky. But encountered today, it has a certain appeal on its own merits.The prose is for the most part quite plain: it’s historical fiction written in the flatly modern, realistic style of the mid-twentieth century literary novel. There’s no attempt to mimic contemporary dialect or to say much about societal or political mores. It feels like something that could have been written over the course of a long weekend, using only one or two books for reference. Most of what is good here would make for nice writing in any novel. There’s a lot of pleasant descriptions of travel through sparse rural landscapes. The world has a strange sort of calm to it.Blondel himself is a somewhat vague creation. He feels like a fairly typical example of a lost young man (who is no longer really young) in a novel from fifty years ago. He wants to find his way back to Richard almost because there is nothing really else for him to do and, aside from that, he seems to have barely any reason for existing. Mostly he’s just mooching along and responding to the things that happen to him along the way. There’s the inevitable unattractive lady of the castle who wants to sleep with him; the boorish knights and handsome young peasants met along the way; the werewolves and vampires and unicorns met along the way.Oh yes, there are supernatural elements involved. They’re underplayed, in a way that sometimes suggests they might only be a ‘tall tale’ version of a real world occurrence. But they also seem to betray an uncertainty about the plot, as if the author were never quite sure how to progress to the next sequence without invoking some kind of crazy episodic occurrence. None of it has much consequence. Indeed, the most memorable passages here are probably the most realistic; the recurring sense is of a rather lonely man, one who is intelligent and artistic, forced to live amongst a high class of brutish philistines for whom he harbours a faint resentment. And while I don’t know much about the author himself, I couldn’t help but wonder if he put some of his own sense of youthful restlessness into this character.

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