The Voyage of the Short Serpent

Bernard Du Bucheron, Author, Hester Velmans, Translator , trans. from the French by Hester Velmans. Overlook $24.95 (206p) ISBN 978-1-58567-920-1

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.)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
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