The Serpent of Stars
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The Serpent of Stars (Le serpent d¢étoiles, 1993; reprinted 1999 Grasset) takes place in rural southern France in the early part of the century. The novel’s elusive narrative thread ties landscape to character to an expanse just beyond our grasp. The narrator encounters a shepherding family and glimpse by glimpse, each family member and the shepherding way of life is revealed to us. The novel culminates in a large shepherds’ gathering where a traditional Shepherd’s Play—a kind of creation myth that includes in its cast The River, The Sea, The Man, and The Mountain—is enacted. The work’s proto-environmental world view as well as its hybrid form—part play, part novel—makes The Serpent of Stars astonishingly contemporary. W.S. Merwin’s "Green Fields" begins, "By this part of the century few are left who believe/in the animals for they are not there in the carved parts/of them served on plates and the pleas from slatted trucks..." This novel leaves the reader believing not only in the animals, but the terrain they are part of, the people who tend them, and the life all these elements together compose.
He’s told you a beautiful story of the little child who was not received by the hands of midwives, but by the straw, as the beasts are received. He told you that it was a virgin who made him. The beasts are virgins; they do not soil the acts that make life. They make life, simple as that. They go into the bushes, and then they come out with baby sheep and, right away, these babies taste fresh life with their muzzles, and right away, they are heavy with a great wisdom which astonishes men. The
panic-stricken dog was dancing about in the thick of them. Finally, they surrounded him, and he knew that his last moment had arrived. He no longer put up a fight, but I saw the sheep close in on him, engulf him, trample him, trample him to death, with the great mindfulness required of a thing that has to be done well. I ran toward the rocks. From there, you could look down over our whole region and then the “Vermeil” meadow and a bit of Norante. Above, I found the boss stretched out on the
in pursuit of that primary position held by the Sardinian. For right now, I’m not going to translate the rest of the play. I only wanted to give a long series of scenes to show how the serpentine action unfolds. Furthermore, it does not form a whole, a round fruit well sealed off from the sky all around, but it is, on the contrary, like a soft fig, too ripe on one side, its honey dripping gold, and on the other side, bitter and creamy with the milk of the tree, because the shepherds don’t all
will go off over the waters to meet death full of images. THE MAN. Lord, I am naked, and you have bound me wrist and ankle and you have thrown me to the cold earth like a kid to be slaughtered. Lord, I am naked, and you have shown me your wide hands full of salt, and you whistled between your lips as if to call me, and I followed you as far as the salt stones9 because I was hungry for that good bitterness. Lord, I am naked, and you have kicked me in the stomach to push me away, and I
one end to the other by putting one foot ahead of the next. From time to time, the great phantom of a cypress appeared in the dust before me. It passed alongside, oblivious, following its own route, and I walked along mine. Sometimes, through the dust we saw a farm, pale and wide. Behind us, the whole country moaned with the moaning of the stragglers. At night, we stopped in little villages, all closed up like startled tortoises. Everything was dead. The one with the pack mule behind and the one