10 Dec Sheherazade and Marianne Engel
A fascinating aspect of Andrew Davidson’s book, The Gargoyle, was the manner in which Marianne Engel keeps the burned man alive and ultimately makes him fall in love with her through the retelling of their love story, along with other forever-lovers’ tales, in Sheherazade style.
In the Arabian tale of 1001 nights, Sheherazade spins stories so enticing, the vicious, murdering king (who insists upon marrying a virgin and hence kills every woman he marries so that he may then marry a new one) keeps her alive so that he might hear more. In the end, Sheherazade tells the king 1001 stories, keeping herself alive and making the king fall in love with her so that he makes her queen.
Importantly, the king softens, becomes kinder and wiser through the spinning of Sheherazade’s yarns, as does the burned man when he listens to the stories of endless love told by Marianne Engel. Marianne Engel entices the burned man, recovering in his bed and later in her home, with tales of Italian lovers, Vikki and her lost husband at sea and Davidson’s personal favourite, the story of Sei, the beautiful, Japanese glass blower and her farm boy. All of Marianne Engel’s stories feature men and women bound by love that endures throughout all time, all trials, even death. While Davidson (who spent many years teaching in Japan) has a soft spot for that culture and that tale, I enjoyed the story of the Vikings, Einarr and his beloved wife, Svanhildr, and the way the couple take in the orphaned Siguror. While Siguror secretly loves Einarr, he doesn’t dare share his homosexual affection. Instead he sacrifices his own wants for the sake of being close to Einarr in any way he can, including loving his family.
All stories end tragically, yet with the hope that love so deep and pure never dies. Quite an intriguing idea and very ambitious on the part of the author. While many readers were critical of Davidson’s plot, I loved it. I loved that he loved love…and believed in something eternal.