paper 0-9652621-8-9 Originally published in 1946 in Hungary, this ambitious and relentlessly arcane novel reshapes the stuff of legend into a compelling, if ponderous, philosophical melodrama. Subtitled "The Elixir of Eternal Life," it recounts the harrowing adventures endured, over a span of four centuries, by Hans Burgner, a 16th-century alchemist's apprentice who murders his master in order to possess a potion rumored to confer the gift of immortality. Having drunk this elixir, Burgner is condemned to be repeatedly reborn, century after century, as a cursed visionary who sees, but is powerless to prevent, the injustices and cruelties that lie in wait for his fellowmen. Eventually purified by his sufferings, Cornelius (Hans's final incarnation) fulfills his destiny: to prophesy, to a world ravaged by war, the reappearance of the Messiah. Discursive and hyperbolic, The Red Lion, a bulky mixture of biblical, alchemical, and historical lore (which rather resembles Eugene Sue's epic romance The Wandering Jew), nevertheless explores with passionate intensity its deeply flawed hero's passage from sin and error, through a world more flawed even than he, to a paradoxical state of grace. It's a very imperfect novel, but a memorable reading experience all the same.
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