TIME OF PARTING by Anton Donchev


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The epic novel is a well-nigh extinct art. Probably the last great one was Gogol's Taras Bulba. Today aside from some of Kazantzakis' works, it is largely confined to films, principally those notable Japanese recreations of samurai legends. The camera, it seems, is uniquely favored in capturing spectacle, violence, and hard-edged heroics. Thus, any new fictional effort which also manages to convey these attributes can be considered a distinct achievement, as is the case with this bold and ceremonial import, Time of Parting. The time is 1668 and the setting the Elindenya Valley in Bulgaria where a contest of wills emerges between the Catholic peasants and the missionary fervor of the invading Turks. The rather elaborate narrative mode uses alternating eye-witness accounts in the form of personal chronicles: a French nobleman, captured by the Turks and a forced Islamic convert, presents his side of the story with aristocratic sensitivity and worldliness, while Father Aligorko, a village monk and latter a religious renegade, symbolizes primitive compassion, as well as earthy pragmatism. The schematic structure, however, is never overbearing, and the novel's real impact lies in the author's ability in manipulating a number of other larger-than-life characters, including the villainous Turks, within a folk parable which has both a timeless humanistic quality and many stunning scenes of truly elemental blood-and-gore. A strangely memorable work.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1968
Publisher: Morrow