Memoirs of A Professional Cad
by George Sanders. Being on a bit of a George Sanders-trip I remembered I bought this on Kindle ages ago. It’s short, so it only took me two evenings to finish it. It’s not exactly great literature- it’s a couple of anecdotes in loosely chronological order. I strongly suspect a lot isn’t true as sanders cheerfully contradict himself, often several times over. But it’s also very funny and I laughed out loud several times. I think he must have been a very funny man if you caught him in the right mood at a party. It also gives me the impression that he was very intelligent and didn’t have the least interest in actually exposing himself in literary form. Some things ring true tough, like his view on therapy (it’s not so much the kind of therapy that counts, but finding what works for you). Or when he contemplates Ruben’s Saturn Devouring His Son
and wonders why one chooses to paint something like that. I checked it out, and it’s a deeply disturbing piece of art
, so I kind of agree. In short, a fun book if you are a fan of Sanders, but not more than that.
Some time ago a scene from a book came to mind. A man is traveling in an underground labyrinth, and part of it are catacombs, filled with the mummified remains of young and beautiful people. He’s told they were sacrificed to an evil god a very long time ago. While walking the labyrinth he and his companions are followed by some kind of malignant being, and they realise they have to get through the labyrinth quickly. The corpses they pass are first more or less decomposed, but eventually, they come to a part where they look like they are sleeping. A woman wakes up and speaks to him, telling him they are not truly dead, their soul is still within them, but only until the evil god reaches them and take their soul and they will truly die. She gives the man a talisman for protecting before sinking back in her deathlike sleep.
It was a very vivid memory, but it took me a while to remember in which book I read it. Then I remembered it’s from a Swedish fantasy trilogy by Bertil Mårtensson, I read in my early teens. They are not translated but translated they are called The Road Away, The Road Back
and The Road Out
, collected under the name The Roads of Power
. Having not read the books for about 35 years I was a bit apprehensive of re-reading them. What you love when you are thirteen may not be what you love now.
But I enjoyed it. The fantasy world is very clearly inspired by Tolkien, Watership Down
and Greek mythology, but also Scandinavian mythology, most notably trolls, described pretty much like John Bauer paint them.
It begins with a young man, Jarel, who shows up in a mountain in without any memories of who he is. He gets entangled into a fight against the evil Aulor, a fight led by Jore who owns an enchanted golden bow, and Andira, a beautiful woman who sometimes is a man; Ander. The two first books are really just two parts of a continuous story, the last is set 10 years later. I was surprised over how diverse and nonjudgemental the books are, considering they were written around 1980. Especially Andira who is never judged by owning her sexuality, and for liking being a man on occasion. Well, she is judged by other characters, but not by the author.
There are several highly effective scenes and interactions. Like “the fright” a kitelike construction with bells attached which can only be used by someone who has been genuinely wronged. The fright follows the victim at a distance, but don’t actually do something. However, as everyone knows a person followed by a fright must have done something terrible, the person quickly gets shunned. And imagine being followed by something wherever you go ringing bells. In the end, the victim either commits suicide or try to destroy the fright. But in destroying it, they always kill themselves. Or the grey sexless humanoids created from earth which just relentlessly walk forward, but kills everything they touch.
There is also a lovely little sub-story about a man who has learned to speak rabbit. While imprisoned a female rabbit finds him to give him a message, but when she realises he is caught, she stays with him, and later successfully plans to free him.
But on occasion the prose is clunky, and sometimes a lot happens which is only mentioned. Sometimes I don’t mind, like when Andira is imprisoned by a man who proposes to love her. She just needs to stop becoming a man and be a “real” woman. And to convince her he resorts to beatings and rape. We are, thankfully, only told in passing about that. But then there are scenes like the one where the little rabbit breaks into the prison and frees her human. And we don’t get to see it. Suddenly he is free and she’s sitting on his shoulder, and we are told he has been rescued. And I had really looked forward to seeing them meet for the first time!
All in all, I enjoyed my reread, but the prose is not as good as the characters and the settings. I actually think it would make a great TV-show; the fantasy world Mårtensson created is very good and there are a multitude of interesting characters, settings, and situation which would work great on screen.