Sunday, March 31, 2013

74. Melmoth The Wanderer

Melmoth The Wanderer
Charles Maturin
Around 400 pages

Happy Easter everyone!  I spent the day gorging myself on candy, reading this novel, and listening to Steely Dan.  What good times.

Usually I have either heard of the book or heard of the author, but this entry in the list was completely unknown to me.  For the hundredth time, I am grateful to the list for introducing me to another gem that I never would have heard of otherwise.

This is an extremely hard plot to describe.  Maturin takes the "story within a story" concept to a whole new level.  At one point, I think I was in a story within a story within a story within a story.  The author even acknowledges how confusing it is at end by saying that the reader has probably forgot the main character's name.  Indeed, I had.

The main plot follows John Melmoth, who inherits his uncle estate.  His uncle's dying wish is that he destroys a manuscript and a painting of one of his relatives.  The relative is pictured in the year 1646 but Melmoth's late uncle swears that he just saw the man.  John Melmoth is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and in his quest, comes across a man named Alonzo, who has his own story to tell.  Some character's in Alonzo's story have stories to tell as well, which resulted in a real clusterfuck of a novel.

Despite what a mess the structural plot of this novel is, I really loved this book.  Alonzo's story is by far the best.  Alonzo is forced to become a monk and we follow him for a good 100 pages as he tries to escape the monastery, only to fall into the hands of the Inquisition.  Previously on the list, we have had Diderot's The Nun, where a woman is imprisoned in a convent.  This is a very interesting concept and I am glad I have gotten to read a few stories about it.

The book condemns the Catholic Church which, no offense to Catholics, is not that hard to do considering what a bloody history the Church has had.  It makes for an interesting read; not only is it entertaining but also has great historical value.  Highly recommended and I am surprised that this book is so obscure.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Influenced Poe and Wilde.

Referenced in Lolita.

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