“Ceci n’est pas un Christ”
The Abdication is close in spirit to a Rabelaisian fable, dark and defiant, particularly of the deified, with humor amid the heavy topics. Beginning with a sinuous if loose first sentence, we are thrust into a novel of movement, children circling, then a troupe dancing, as well as swinging on circus contraptions built on-site, among other odd activities. There is a celebration here, but is it of life, death, or something else entirely? The troupe in question is led by a masked man named Triboulet (making the Rabelais influence obvious). Meanwhile, there is strange vandalism occurring across the theological world, which breeds a variety of rumors with no certain answers as to who and why in particular, although a fair share of people blame the troupe whose uncouth antics can sway even the most high-ranking officials if but for an afternoon of naughtiness. The eccentricity and global implications are heightened once Triboulet outs himself as Christ. Instead of embracing all with love and mercy, he abdicates the entire Christian religion, which causes deep denial, ritual suicides, and other extreme reactions.
While the philosophic concepts are intriguing and the prose is not without passion, it is however lacking in virtuosity, to borrow John Barth’s criteria. After the first few pages, one begins to notice an unnoticeable tic that persists throughout the entire novel, the caustic causality of “as.” As you read the novel, you can’t escape the temporal “as” in a surplus of sentences, even multiple instances in a single sentence, such as: “…while in a state of seeming paralysis, time seemed like nothing but an ever diminishing fold of phyllo dough, yet as it crumbled in his hands while he twitched and trembled, his body contorting this way and that, time transformed into a bullet, but traveling in reverse, and Triboulet watched as he saw the species itself in reverse, and as it devolved from homo sapiens to homo neanderthalensis to homo rhodesiensis and beyond, as it was in a sense vanishing, though not back to dust, he was witnessing its actual evolution, just as he began to witness in reverse…” and so on [italics mine]. And when “when” and “while” are used in replace of “as,” while in theory different, it does little to deter from the hyper-repetitive effect. Even from that brief snippet, you might have become aware of a lack of awareness within the prose in general, for “to and fro” is used several times within the first several pages, and there’s also a reliance on “here and there” and the like, plus various other redundancies that, while mellifluous on the surface, deter from the reading experience: “melodic and mellifluous,” “intriguing and fascinating,” “feral and ferocious,” “infinitesimal iota,” “endlessly elongating as if it were being stretched to infinity,” etc.
If you can forgive what Barth would deem heartfelt ineptitude, then you’ll be able to enjoy what this unique novel has to offer: irreverent humor, sprezzatura, apocalyptic intrigue, and just a bit of typographical spice.
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George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below. His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Literary Magazine, House of Zolo, Three Crows Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Isacoustic, Atticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, and at www.GeorgeSalis.com.