The Alchymist's Journal

Evan S. Connell, Author North Point Press $19.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-86547-464-2
A banquet of ideas, Connell's esoteric novel, evoking the Western world poised on the brink of modernity, has a central preoccupation: At what price to the soul has today's mechanistic worldview been forged? The narrative consists of seven imaginary pre-Renaissance diaries, presented in sequence, beginning with the thundering voice of the famous 16th-century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus, defiant, belligerent, egotistical foe of medical orthodoxy. Paracelsus seeks correspondences between the microcosm and the macrocosm, as does the unnamed humanistic philosopher whose ruminations bring the colloquy full circle. In between we hear from an alchemical novice, an old skeptic, an open-minded physician, a devout Christian historian and a revolutionary who spouts apocalyptic forebodings. Connell ( Son of the Morning Star ) achieves moments of great beauty in luxuriant, if sometimes overwrought prose that seems to have sprung from the late Middle Ages. If his novel comes off as hermetic, a failed alchemical experiment, it nevertheless commands thoughtful attention, its surface resplendent with forgotten lore of alchemy, science and love. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
Paperback - 222 pages - 978-1-59376-076-2
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-61902-690-2
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