Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The art of Rafael Sabatini

Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950)

Sabatini was a more popular writer during his lifetime, when his trademark works of romantic, principled historical fiction were more accessible and more acceptable. If you have not read Scaramouche, you have deprived yourself. You will feel yourself to be a better, more lavishly happy person after you read it for the first time. There is the occasional swordplay in his novels, however, I warn you, most of the time his characters do nothing but talk.

My interest here is to share a sample of his ingenious and engaging prose. This is from Saint Martin's Summer….in fact, these are the first two paragraphs of the first chapter:

"My Lord of Tressan, His Majesty's Seneschal of Dauphiny, sat at his ease, his purple doublet all undone, to yield greater freedom to his vast bulk, a yellow silken undergarment visible through the gap, as is visible the flesh of some fruit that, swollen with over-ripeness, has burst its skin.

"His wig—imposed upon him by necessity, not fashion—lay on the table amid a confusion of dusty papers, and on his little fat nose, round and red as a cherry at its end, rested the bridge of his horn-rimmed spectacles. His bald head—so bald and shining that it conveyed an unpleasant sense of nakedness, suggesting that its uncovering had been an act of indelicacy on the owner's part—rested on the back of his great chair, and hid from sight the gaudy escutcheon wrought upon the crimson leather. His eyes were closed, his mouth open, and whether from that mouth or from his nose—or, perhaps, conflicting for issue between both—there came a snorting, rumbling sound to proclaim that my Lord the Seneschal was hard at work upon the King's business."

Eat your heart out, John Grisham.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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