Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf
This was fantastic historical novel indeed and certainly very unique. It is a story about Vatican during Pope Leo X, known as a patron of Michelangelo and Raphael (but the reason for his affection toward master Raphael wasn’t that much artistic or at least not only related with his artistic abilities if you know what I mean). It is about political situation in Vatican and rise of Martin Luther. Story is told by Peppe a Gnostic dwarf, an incredibly eloquent, witty and likable character.
Book is very carnal, decadent and is not for religiously sensitive, homophobic readers. I like very much that history interweaves with some less known, private things about the characters; later I checked on the net and in textbooks and find out indeed that this novel has incredible level of historic accuracy (including those private little things as well).
The Inquisition, Gnostic philosophy, political intrigues, freak show, poisoned drinks, screams of horror and the ones of carnal pleasure that are coming both from the dark street alleys and the papal chambers … this grotesque image has been paint with blood and semen and in the end you really don’t know if the bad ones were really bad and good guys really that good? Of course you really must dismiss [your own] morality otherwise you’ll be completely lost. I’ve found myself longing to understand and agree with some things but just couldn’t, some things on the other hand were so insane that I couldn’t even forced myself to comprehend. I mean their essence.
I really have no doubts that Mr. Madsen informed himself about the way the Gnostic liturgy has been performed [after all, everything else I was keen to check it turned out to be exactly as he wrote in the book] but then, there’s no way I could understand the meaning of certain rituals. And maybe that could be the “flaw”: Peppe didn’t explain the essence of the rituals while in the same time he’s sending a message directly to the reader (he’s fully aware that you’re holding this book) of a Gnostic ideology and its goals. But he left rituals naked and as such quite repulsive and even ridiculous. Oh and utterly grotesque for sure!
Then it gives one great and quite unique view on the Lutheran schism. I believe he was closer to Lutheranism than Catholicism in spite the fact that he was one of the closest friends with Pope Leo X and lived with him in Vatican. The story of selling (pardon, “preaching”) indulgences was hilarious and indeed he shares the same emotion as we (or should I say myself) about it. It’s so obviously corrupted and greedy and absurd (people purchased indulgences for sins they were about to commit and Church didn’t objected whatsoever!). Then they started to sell indulgences that can be applied to the dead! There’s even a verse about it:
“As soon as money in the coffer rings,
the soul from purgatory’s fire springs”
No wonder Martin Luther rebelled! Who wouldn’t? You know, sometimes I wonder if those high Church officials are believers at all?
And in the end I must mention the language. The novel is pure linguistic embroidery which is beautiful … if you’re native English speaker. However if you’re not [like myself] the novel will require an additional work: browsing thru your dictionary. But this story is more than worth of all “troubles”, you’ll be richly rewarded. This is one of those novels that certainly shouldn’t be missed. Highly recommending but as I said at the beginning this is not novel for everyone.