A NOVELLA by Ian R. MacLeod
PUBLICATION DATE October 2013
COVER ART Christopher Walker
PRINT RUN unsigned
My name, Ezekiel, is Ariadne. And I have a commission to ask of you . . .
A beautiful woman arrives at dusk at the workshop of a réparateur, or restorer, of religious objects set high amid the rooftops of a great cathedral city. She wants him to paint her portrait. But not as she is, or at least how she seems, but as she might appear many years into the future. So, against the looming backdrop of the French Revolution, a strange yet oddly touching relationship evolves.
The Réparateur of Strasbourg twists history and the supernatural into a darkly beautiful tale of love and obsession, and takes the reader on the journey of one man’s life toward a tumultuous conclusion.
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THE RÉPARATEUR OF STRASBOURG is the story of Ezekiel Morel who makes a career for himself out of repairing damaged artwork in the churches of Strasbourg, but who cannot help sometimes improving on the original, adding his own little touches. The mysterious and beautiful Ariadne visits him in the middle of the night and commissions Ezekiel to paint her portrait, but not as she now appears, as she will look in twenty years’ time. Many years later, unchanged to the naked eye, she once again commissions Ezekiel, this time to paint her as a hag. But when the revolution comes to France, Ezekiel is placed in danger. His estranged son Roland holds power in the city and wishes to be avenged on his father for the slights of the past. Ezekiel finds himself a prisoner, and Ariadne is there too, truly the hag he had painted her as.
This is an engaging story, well written and with convincing characters, with the antipathy between father and son a plot driver. MacLeod brings the period to life on the page, the feel of a time of changes, a land in turmoil as all the old values are swept away and nothing new comes to take their place. The novella cannot help but have a political dimension, especially in the final confrontation between Ariadne and the citizen court, so that it is hard not to read more meaning than the author intended into passages like “the new, small gods who suck the lifeblood of decency from this country”, to interpret them as commentary on current world affairs. There is nothing here that is really new - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro for one has portrayed the vampire as a critic of human affairs in the context of a historical drama, while Ariadne’s origin echoes scenes from Somtow and Rice - but Macleod’s rendition is lively and fun, a diverting alternative to the sparkly template of recent years, showing the vampire as a moral creature but not without malice when provoked.