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A Terrace in Rome Paperback – May 24, 2016
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To say that Pascal Quignard's words are a meditation or an exploration is too simplistic - there is a philosophical stream of consciousness in his writing that has a realism both enlightened and carnal which attempts to grasp the essence of human nature in a handful of grand themes. (Tomoé Hill The Quarterly Conversation)
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In lapidary scenes and evocative, many-layered images, the life of Meaume the Engraver is given us, now emerging from the shadows, now folded back into its unknown depths. It is a human life lived out in bitter love, in the space "between sexuality and hell," in the terrifying joy of being alive in the world. So beautifully written: you can't stop reading, and when you reach the end you go back and start all over.
I can't imagine a better translation. The prose reads flawlessly in beautiful, limpid English that magically preserves the feeling of French.
A TERRACE IN ROME proceeds in fragmentary narratives, descriptions of pictures, and accounts of conversations and voyages to tell the story of a 17th century artist, Geoffrey Maume. It is a life of harsh passions, of pain and struggle, a life lived in the shadows. Here is a sample:
They opened double doors of the great gallery; Monsieur de Sainte Colombe entered first. Abraham Van Berchem came next. Then, after a pause, Marie Aidelle, Meaume the Engraver, and Oesterer followed them. There were two long rows of small aquariums and terrariums set directly on the marble floor. There were about a hundred of them. Meaume the Engraver said: "It's Noah and his ark."
But Monsieur de Sainte Colombe did not respond to the remark which Meaume had made to attract his attention. The two old men were contemplating salamanders, newts, lizards, tortoises, snails, crabs devouring each other in aquariums with gilded frames softly lit by torches. "This suite of rooms," said Monsieur de Sainte Colombe to Abraham, "is the gallery of ancestors."
"Yes." said Abraham Van Berchem.
"The ancestors are here, still eating."
"The old ones are insatiable," said Monsieur de Sainte Colombe.
Marie Aidelle hated that place, and, taking her skirts in her hands, left quickly.
We hope that others find A TERRACE IN ROME as beautiful, mysterious and haunting as we have, and that the book receive the acclaim here that is has throughout the rest of the world. It has been a privilege to translate this superb novel.