Tuesday, 26 October 1999

Victor Canning: The Immortal Wound (1978)

Edition: Heinemann
Review number: 371

The Immortal Wound brings Canning's Arthurian trilogy to its conclusion. Unfortunately, the novel is no more satisfying than the earlier stories and the annoying little touches which I found so jarring continue - the poems, and the way that descriptions of characters' thoughts are continually interrupted by the exclamation "Aie!".

This novel tells the story of Arto's progression from young leader of a small war band to high king of Britain to his death, with length gaps. Much of the force of the legendary material is dissipated, the more Freudian touches (Arthur's unknowing incest with his sister, the symbols in the quest for the Holy Grail, the betrayal by Lancelot) being fairly ruthlessly suppressed. Only Guinevere's adultery is mentioned at all, and that is excused by her motivation: to produce an heir for Arto in defiance of a prophecy that he will "throw no seed".

The best of the three novels is the first, The Crimson Chalice, perhaps because it has least connnection to the well known legends.

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