Friday, 23 October 2009

Book Review: Endless Things: A Part of Aegypt by John Crowley

Endless Things is the fourth and final part of John Crowley's Aegypt sequence. I wrote in my review of Daemonomania (the third novel in the sequence) that a short review can never do justice to this breathtakingly complex series of novels. At one level it's a domestic drama set in the Faraway Hills, a rural area of north eastern America, at another a metaphysical interpretation of history, humanity and the universe, combining theological speculation and Gnostic philosophy, and at an even more subtle level an occultist fantasy-so subtle in fact it's difficult to label the sequence as fantasy. Endless Things is an epilogue (it's shorter then the previous novels) and a tying up of ends; we uncover the fate of the emotionally tormented main character-Pierce Moffett, taking the reader by surprise and the significance of Fellowes Kraft's unpublished and supposedly unfinished novel-the book within a book at the centre of the Aegypt sequence.

The first half of Endless Things is fiendishly complex as the dispirited historian Pierce Moffett travels to Europe following in the footsteps of Fellowes Kraft, who journeyed to the region in 1968. It's interspersed with the last section of Kraft's 'unfinished' historical novel concerning early 17th century philosopher and heretic Giordano Bruno and the origins of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, an influential occult society. Dense with magical symbolism and Gnostic metaphysics as well as humour, this first part of the novel merges into the more realistic second half as the unexpected future of our forlorn hero is revealed. Pierce experiences a spiritual epiphany outside a roadhouse strip-club.

He stopped, in the cold spring air of the parking lot, with his car keys in his hand, in the chartreuse light of the Paradise Lounge girl.

And yet there is a realm outside.

There is a realm outside.

It wasn't a thought or a notion arising in his heart or head, it was as though presented to or inserted within him, something that wasn't of or from himself at all. He had never felt even the possibility of it before, and yet he knew it now with absolute plain certainty. It wasn't even a surprise.

There is an enveloping realm, beyond everything that is and everything that might be or can be imagined to be. It was so.

Not Heaven, where the Logus lives, where everything is made of meaning, or better say, where meanings are the only things. That realm, of any, is deep deep within. But beyond the realms of meaning; beyond even any possible author of all this, if there was one, which there was not; outside or beyond even Bruno's infinities, outside of which there could be nothing; outside all possibility, lay the realm in which all is contained.

It was so. He knew it, without any wonderment. he knew it by its total usefulness.

It answered.

This is not the finale. The novel ends on the summit of a small mountain in the Faraway Hills over a decade after the events encountered in the previous books, with most of the main characters present. It's a wonderful ending, one of the best I've read. The Aegypt sequence as a whole is a masterpiece that you can read over and over again, enabling you to discover new resonances. All lovers of visionary literature should check out these novels as they celebrate the alchemy of the imagination itself; a sacred spring gushing between the covers of all great books.

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