THE CHEMICAL WEDDING BY CHRISTIAN ROSENCREUTZ by John Crowley

THE CHEMICAL WEDDING BY CHRISTIAN ROSENCREUTZ

A Romance In Eight Days
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gnostic gnovelist Crowley (Aegypt, 2013, etc.) goes to the well in this rendering of the Ur-text of Rosicrucianism.

After a chemical romance, why not a chemical wedding? Christian Rosencreutz (a pseudonym for Andreae) was playing with a dangerous combination of elements, or perhaps Platonic solids, when, four centuries ago, he concocted a strange symbolic tale involving a quest in a land where, in an imposing castle, a king and queen are to marry. But odd things are happening, as our protagonist learns over the course of his eight-day journey to this wacky place; for one thing, there’s a bird fed on a very special kind of blood, “the blood of the beheaded royal persons, diluted with the waters we had prepared,” which causes the thing to grow visibly and measurably even as it imbibes. If that sounds like a chemical reaction to you, then it’s for good reason; Rosencreutz was an alchemist of note, and this odd novel was meant to impart his teachings. Or was it? Crowley casts doubt in his introduction on Rosencreutz’s sincerity, noting that the book was, in his words, a ludibrium, “a word with more than one shade of meaning: joke, play, nonsense, ridiculous thing.” Elsewhere Crowley ventures the view that the book is the world’s first science-fiction novel, but he leaves that claim half-defended and imperfectly at that. (Yes, it’s a novel. Yes, it has science. That does not make it science fiction.) Like certain prophets closer to our own time, Rosencreutz makes it clear in this heavy-handed allegory that his brilliance is not for the unwashed and that he’s not allowed to reveal all he knows (“I’m still forbidden to tell it…and other things that later I was told I shouldn’t reveal”). Crowley undoes some of Rosencreutz’s formality with his loose, slangy rendering, making the joke seem even jokier. Literature it’s not, but it’s a fine specimen of literary-ish mumbo jumbo.

A curiosity, but just right for the budding New Age–inclined alchemist of the household.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61873-108-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016




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