Monday, 24 June 2013

Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron"

Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron" (French: Heptaméron) - 1578

I found the title of this book in Jane Smiley's “13 Ways of Looking at the Novel”. It was one of the older books on the list and since I love classics and quite like "The Decameron" (also on her list), I put it on my reading list.

Apparently, the author was Marguerite de Navarre, sister of Francis I, King of France. She seemed to have read "The Decameron", as well. It was probably one of the "best sellers" of the time and she took it as an inspiration to write her own stories like this, only she had only written seven days of this book when she died, so there are fewer stories, hence only the "Heptameron".

Contrary to "The Decameron", this was a collection of short stories I did not care much about. When I said in my previous review that the stories in the Italian collection were rather racy, they have gone completely overboard in this one. Some of the stories are believed to have been true. If that is the case, don't set the "Good Old Days" as an example for faithful people. Also, I cannot remember having read any of the stories later on in another setting, so it must not have been as much an inspiration to other writers as "The Decameron" seems to have been and still is.

They also have a discussion at the end of the day but they seem very artificial, nothing rings true and you don't really warm to any of the characters even though the author seems to have borrowed them from her real life.

I usually like to learn about different epochs by reading novels from that time but I didn't have the feeling I learned much from this one. Every story was just a couple of pages long and looked to me more like a description of a story rather than a real story.

From the back cover: "In the early 1500s five men and five women find themselves trapped by floods and compelled to take refuge in an abbey high in the Pyrenees. When told they must wait days for a bridge to be repaired, they are inspired - by recalling Boccaccio's Decameron - to pass the time in a cultured manner by each telling a story every day. The stories, however, soon degenerate into a verbal battle between the sexes, as the characters weave tales of corrupt friars, adulterous noblemen and deceitful wives. From the cynical Saffredent to the young idealist Dagoucin or the moderate Parlamente - believed to express De Navarre's own views - The Heptameron provides a fascinating insight into the minds and passions of the nobility of sixteenth century France."

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