Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Travels in Elysium by William Azuski
Travels in Elysium couldn’t help but remind me of another book I admire, The Magus by John Fowles.  In Travels in Elysium, a young Englishman, Nicholas, is lured to a Greek island under dubious pretenses.  Once there, his wits are pitted against those of an older man, archaeologist, Marcus Huxley.  Huxley is not who he appears to be.  It’s evident he’s a master manipulator.  Is he also a hypnotist?  A magician?  A murderer?  Our protagonist struggles to uncover the Truth.

I found the descriptions of the dig sites and of archaeologists at work gratifying.  Huxley’s speech expresses the wonder inherent in the profession:

“Street, houses, frescoes.  You might say those are only the most obvious manifestations of what we disinter form the ash.  In a deeper sense, what we are unearthing are secrets of ancient thought and mind.  Knowledge that might one day change the course of human history.”

Archaeology may not have the power to change the world, but it does make it more interesting.  Nicholas focuses on the egotistical aspects of Huxley’s character.  He seems predisposed to dislike him, probably because he suspects his predecessor was murdered and fears the same fate.  The reader remains uncertain whether Huxley is a charlatan or a misunderstood mystic, who disappears for thirteen days without explanation and exhorts his minions to “wake up.”

Far from a murder mystery, it’s unclear whether a murder has even been committed.  Travels in Elysium is more a meditation on death and the fantasy of escaping it.  Of course, there is that which never dies…

“But then it just sweeps over me, I don’t know what.  A kind of tranquility.  A kind of timelessness.  I experience the strange, almost irresistible impulse to laugh—as if the universe, too small, too narrow to breathe in before has in some sheer instant made of light just grown a thousandfold.”

Can its source be found, its power harnessed?  It’s a common theme, but the archaeologists’ employing ancient texts and artifacts to this end makes for an original twist I found highly entertaining, and yes, even profound.

Azuski has a few quirks in his style—a penchant for sentence fragments, making lists, and beginning sentences with participial phrases, to name a few.  However, he’s a passionate writer, whose joy in putting words on the page is palpable.  That gave me joy.  I look forward to reading more of his work.