Thursday, 10 January 2008

Too many Voynich novels!

The proliferation of Voynich Manuscript-themed novels has gone way beyond being merely a vague pattern in my peripheral vision: it's starting to become a bit of a plague.

Here's another book, this time from Bilbao-based first-time novelist Iñaki Uriarte: published by Verbigracia in 2007, it's called "La Piedra Filosofal" (The Philosopher's Stone, if you hadn't guessed), and weaves the Voynich Manuscript in with the Philosopher's Stone and quantum physics. It is 394 pages long, has the plant from f2v and the top-left nymph from f82v on the cover, and there's a sizeable (83-page!) extract here to whet your appetite. I can't see an ISBN for it, and none of the book sites I looked at had a copy (even Amazon!), but if you fancy it you can buy it for 18 euros directly from the publisher via PayPal. Which is nice.

And there is yet another Spanish book (mentioned in passing by Enrique Joven) called "El quinto mandamiento" (The Fifth Commandment, which is "thou shalt not kill" [of course]), by Eric Frattini, published by Espasa-Calpe, ISBN13 978-84-670-2442-5. It seems fairly standard mystery thriller fare, with an elderly professor uncovering the secrets of the VMs, while a conspiratorial circle of eight (led by a corrupt cardinal) tracks down and murders everyone who the professor has talked to. There's a bit of f67r1 Photoshopped onto the cover, along with the Florence Duomo, but unless I'm really badly mistaken it only seems to engage with the VMs in a very superficial way. 360 pages, 19.90 euros. You can read a machine translation of the first chapter here (click on the 2 3 4 5 .. numbers at the bottom). But Lord, spare me from having to read about any more evil Jesuit priests!

So... we have:-
  • Enrique Joven's forthcoming "Castle of the Stars"
  • Iñaki Uriarte's "La Piedra Filosofal"
  • Eric Frattini's "El quinto mandamiento"
  • Thierry Maugenest's "Manuscript MS408"
  • Michael Cordy's forthcoming "Garden of God"
  • Richard D. Weber's "The Voynich Covenant"
  • Andrea Peters' "I'm Sorry... Love Anne"
  • William Michael Campbell's "The Voynich Solution"
...and even as I type there are doubtless 10-20 more writers out there feverishly word-pureeing their Dan Brown-esque Voynich-based mystery capers, with nearly all of them struggling to find exciting new synonyms for the word "evil" to put before the word "Jesuit". :-o

In some ways, this is all very flattering, for it surely means that our overall Voynichological "research programme" (for want of a better phrase) over the last few years has blossomed in a broad cultural awareness of the manuscript, an inky sea of ideas into which novelists feel free to dip their fountain pens. However, I think it's also fair to say that most of these books do not engage with the VMs in a very substantial way, which - given all the work that we've done - is a bit sad. So on balance, I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad, which of the two emotions is the stronger... you'll have to make your own judgment on that, I'm afraid!

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