THE WANDERING UNICORN by Manuel Mujica Lainez


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An ornamental Medieval fancy--inset with scholarship, myth, allegory, history, and an undertone of compassion for humanity's fatal imperfections. The narrator is the once-beautiful fairy Melusine, who's been holed up for centuries, bored to distraction, in a tower of the castle Lusigan--condemned by mother Presina to revert to bat wings and serpent tail because her husband (handsome but dim) glimpsed her in the bath. So now, after 800 years, Melusine is scaley and bespectacled; but in 1174 she spots a hooded horseman carrying a unicorn horn--symbol of both purity and impurity. And so a picaresque journey begins. The hooded man is Ozil, a ""brave, happy uncomprehending Knight Errant,"" a remote and rejected Lusignan cousin. His son Aiol, whom he is about to meet for the first time, immediately wins Melusine's love: hovering, invisible, riding an oxen under a swarming hum of fellow fairies, she pursues Aiol while glowering at his sister Azelais (for whom he seems to have too tender an attachment). On to Paris--where they meet Berte, Aiol's ex-prostitute mother, and her stonemason-husband Pons, whose lifeless body will crash into the nave of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. . . just when Azelais, possessed by demons, is shrieking away. Also at the exorcism ceremony: the aspiring Queen of culture and courtly love, Seramond, who seduces Aiol but has an appropriately horrid end. And after Ozil's death in a duel--Aiol is knighted by his corpse--it's off to Jerusalem: for his sins, you see, Aiol has vowed to find the True Lance. . . so battles will ensue, not to mention a new body for Melusine (male, alas!) and resurrection for Aiol. A gleaming, occasionally murky Medieval moonstone--from a dean of Argentinian literature, hitherto sparsely published here.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1983
Publisher: Taplinger