PARSIVAL, OR A KNIGHT'S TALE by Richard Monaco

PARSIVAL, OR A KNIGHT'S TALE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Grandiose ambition is written all over this retelling of the Percival legend. The point of departure is Wolfram yon Eschenbach's Parzival, with borrowings from other sources; but the materials have been rearranged in a highly individual spirit. Monaco's Parsival is, like Wolfram's, a holy fool setting out for Arthur's court and knightly adventure armed only with the innocence of his unorthodox upbringing. In Monaco's version, the chief thrust of the story is Parsival's growth toward disillusionment and apparent inner defeat. The pivotal event--his failure to ask the all-important question at Amfortas' castle--is told only obliquely, in flashback and reminiscence. Parsival's floundering progress away from and toward the Grail coincides with the invasion of Arthur's Britain by the evil sorcerer Clinschor and his zombie minions. Monaco seeks no images of story-book chivalry. His Arthur is weary and none too scrupulous; his knights are cynical thugs; his England is a mud-and dung-spattered world of struggling little people (finely evoked in the interwoven story of Broaditch, a resourceful retainer from Parsival's mother's court). Warts and all, it is worth redeeming or redreaming. This is a very promising approach. But the characterization of Parsival himself is a major weakness. Monaco simply does not seem to be inside that gloriously improbable innocence. The tough and loyal Broaditch comes off better, but (like the rest of the story) is hard put to survive Monaco's constant juggling of events among different observers and narrative vantage-points. Then there is the unremitting, cooler-than-thou self-importance of the style, full of long shapeless aggregations of participles and absolute constructions and phrases like ""sun hyperbright"" or ""adrenalized concentration."" An interesting design ruined by a fussy and pretentious execution.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1977
ISBN: 0759252947
Publisher: Macmillan