Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Character Bashing

39. The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob by George Eliot

These are two separate novellas included in an Oxford World Classics edition. The first could be categorized as a nineteenth century prototype for a genre that would become science fiction. The main character Latimer reminded me strongly of Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein and there are similar themes. For those of you not familiar with her, George Eliot was also a woman.

Latimer, in rich prose, describes his tragic transformation into a clairvoyant, a reader of the future and other peoples' minds. He discovers the petty motivations, negativity, or emptiness of all those around him and internalizes it. He is a romantic poetic type, but notably without the ability to create art. The object of his affection and subsequent horror is Bertha Grant, at first the only one immune to his powers.

The Lifted Veil, and Brother Jacob as well, boast gorgeous language and keen, though pessimistic, insight into human society and behavior.

Brother Jacob is lighter and more comical, it is the tale of a duplicitous confectioner and his comeuppance. I would recommend these for quick entertainment and lasting ponder value.

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