Through the corridors of Souffre-Jour
As I said a few days back, I’m currently reading Mathieu Gaborit’s Chroniques des Crepusculaires, and if the going is very slow – about one hundred pages in about one week – I must say that I am impressed.
No, not impressed by my ability to actually read (very slowly) a pretty literary novel written in French.
The volume is actually the expanded edition of three original novels: Souffre-Jour, Les Danseurs de Lorgol and Agone
No, what impresses me is the book, its style, its worldbuilding.
And mind you – being now about one fifth of the way through, there is still a lot i must discover, as this is one of those books that start by piling questions upon questions on the reader, and then drag him in.
This is a fantasy, but also a mystery of sorts, and a strange phylosophical tale.
The gist of the story: young Agone de Rochronde has renounced his aristocratic title and his duties, and joined a guild of traveling teachers, that practice non-violence and want to elevate the poor through culture. But the death of his father drags him back. In a last will that is actually magically interactive, the old Baron imposes to his son to spend six days in Souffre-Jour, a magical college. At the end of the six days, he will be free to go back to his old life.
But there’s a catch, of course…
Originally published in three volumes between 1995 and 1996, Chroniques was reprinted in an expanded, enlarged edition in 1999. I have a pocket edition of this version, the author’s preferred text, published in 2002.
There is a fourth book in the series, the more-or-less stand-alone Abyme – that is on my buying list, considering how I’m liking the earlier works.
I am crawling through the text, but I find many images absolutely stunning (like Souffre-Jour, a castle whose walls are intergrown with the branches of strange trees – a building and a forest at the same time), and its style, that is vaguely reminiscent of a young Michael Moorcock.
Which is not bad at all. The setting is Renaissance-style, a world in which the magical arts are both magical AND arts, with elements heavily borrowed, but nicely twisted, from classic Greco-Roman mythology.
From the novels was also produced a roleplaying game, called Agone, once again one of the best gaming worlds I ever played.
So – great stuff. On we go!