|About the Book|
Oh what a brutal comedy it is...I was speaking of life, but I guess that applies to the book Ysengrimus too. Its quite interesting that the book is in fact titled Ysengrimus... though, of course, thats entirely appropriate... but one might have expected it to be called Reynard. Here, though, the title helps us keep our attention right on the suffering bastard whose torments and humiliations are chronicled. Reynard, for all his fame, his wit and cunning, is most notable as the principal engine for Ysengrimuss suffering. (I would say beatification through bodily pain but unfortunately theres nothing saintly or steadfast within Ysengrimus, and thus the greater tragedy).While it is true that Ysengrimus is wicked, incapable of reform, unteachable, greedy, and villainous in many ways--at least in terms of intent--he is also completely ineffectual and is never witnessed actually doing anything that remotely justifies the horrible tricks to which he falls victim. He very well would like to deserve the cruelty fortune deals him, but he is never even fortunate enough to deserve it.The novel is one-hundred percent irony, which is the foundation of its humor, but there is also perhaps a sincerity in the desire to bring wicked bishops like Anselm... and perhaps the pope himself--to brutal justice. Since the truly powerful cannot be made to pay, in human form, then the suffering all falls upon the wretched animal.Chapter 3, in the first paragraph, may serve well as a thesis statement for the entire text. In the first and last sentences:When Fortune is oppressing the wretched, she knows no relenting, so that to those whom she has already punished, she deals out yet more blows... wretched in the field was Ysengrimus, and wretched in court- always and everywhere he was in the midst of enemies.I could ramble for a while, but Im not actually much of a book reviewer. I think this book was excellent in its own unique way, it was surprising, shocking actually, funny, and emotionally and morally challenging too. It has an unrelenting quality. It has a lot of medieval character to it- that is, its humor and style certainly make it akin to other medieval European texts even while it retains its own voice. In an odd way, Id also dare to say that its cynicism and even occasional tedium carry all the way through into modern literature, in the form of the writings of Celine. Did Celine really inherit the literary instincts of a Medieval monk? Well, read and decide for yourself, Im not in the mood to break it down for you.