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An unparalleled historical evocation, eminently modern,
This review is from: ABYSS (Paperback)
The main character in this novel, Zeno, is a physician, alchemist and philosopher who lives in the 16th century in Europe. This century is marked by extreme religious fanaticism (extermination of the Anabaptists in Münster), natural disasters (the plague) and the advent of many new ideas (Paracelsus, Copernicus), also in sexual matters (more freedom).
Zeno is the prototype of the anti-establishment protester who doubts, but who everywhere and openly expresses his views on the existing world order. Because of his outspokenness he is seen as a real danger by the existing politico-religious rulers.
His discussions with the masters of the world are crystal clear. Personally, they criticize heavily the existing world order. They see perfectly the huge dichotomy between their worldview and the real world, between the precepts of their religion and the real actions taken by their reigning politico-religious colleagues. But, there is no question of challenging the powers that be; they are in fact the first to profit from them.
After a wandering life in Europe, Zeno returns to Bruges, where he is attacked for his assistance to Protestants, his political tracts and a sex scandal in a cloister causing the death of a newborn.
While the 'Memoirs of Hadrian' are an expression of the author's serious hope in a political leader (a just and sincere emperor) who is capable to save the world, 'The Abyss' is a fundamentally pessimistic book which paints a world of pure ferocity.
This ferocity is a deeply ingrained human instinct, which expresses itself not only in religious dogmatism and fanaticism, but also in political tyranny and war.
This book is a long meditation on the sense of life, seeing the true nature of mankind, rampant selfishness and the cowardice of the masters of the world.
It is one of the greatest masterpieces of French and world literature.
A must read.