First up was "Les Livres Maudits" (1971, J'ai Lu) by Jacques Bergier, chemical engineer and [al]chemist, French resistance fighter and spy, writer and journalist: in it, he painted a picture of the VMs as containing a secret so powerful that it could destroy the world. Could it have simply been an idea: like "being nice to people doesn't work"? According to my old pal Jean-Yves Atero, Bergier was convinced this secret was so devastating that (basically) Men In Black will always track its progress, and will stop at nothing to keep the truth about it from being brought into the open. Errrm... hold on a minute, there's someone at the door...
Rather more recently, there was "The Magician's Death" (2004) [published in French as "Le livre du magicien" (2006)] by prolific historical mystery writer Paul C. Doherty, in his 'Hugh Corbett' series. This has Roger Bacon writing an unbreakable code, various English and French factions trying to crack it, and loads of people getting killed (or something along those lines).
Coming out in the same year was "Shattered Icon" (2004) (later re-released as "Splintered Icon" (2006), and published in German as "Der 77. Grad." (2007)] by Bill Napier. As far as I can tell, this uses the deciphering of a Voynich-style 400-year-old journal / map to tease out a mystery thriller take on the Roanoke Island expedition.
Scarlett Thomas's novel PopCo (2004) also mentions the Voynich Manuscript (it claims on the German Wikipedia page), as part of a "richly allusive" [Independent on Sunday] pop-culture novelistic riff on cryptography. She now lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Kent in Canterbury. I find this a bit worrying: it conjures up an image of a classful of uber-literate proto-writers, all looking at the VMs and thinking "Hmmm... an 'unreadable book', eh? An excellently ironic leitmotif for my postmodern anti-novel..." [*], which I will then have to laboriously add to the Big Fat List, and perhaps even to try to read (Lord, protect me from any more Generation X knockoffs). Blogging can be hell, I'll have you know.
- [*] Doubtless spoken in a E.L.Wisty voice
- "L'intrigue de Il Romanzo Di Nostradamus" by Valerio Evangelisti apparently has Nostradamus battling the VMs and its black magic ilk;
- Dan Simmons' 832-page epic "Olympos" (2006) apparently namechecks the Voynich as having been bought in 1586 by Rudolph II (though how this gets fitted in to a story about Helen of Troy is a matter for wonder: I'm sure it all makes sense, really I do); and
- "Datura tai harha jonka jokainen näkee" (2001) by Finnish writer Leena Krohn (published in German as "Stechapfel") is centred on the hallucinogenic plant Datura (AKA jimsonweed, Magicians' weed", or Sorcerors' weed), and it is an easy step from there to the Voynich Manuscript. Back in 2002, I posted to the VMs mailing list about various plants such as Datura: so this is no great surprise.
Oh well, back to my day job (whatever that is)...