Short summary - The Abyss - Marguerite Yourcenar

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Abyss
Marguerite Yourcenar

1529 year. At the crossroads of two roads, cousins meet. Henri-Maximilian, the son of a wealthy merchant Henri-Just Ligres, is sixteen years old: he raves about Plutarch and firmly believes that he can compete in glory with Alexander the Great and Caesar. He hates to sit in his father's shop and measure the cloth with an yardstick: his goal is to become a man. The illegitimate Zeno is twenty years old: all his thoughts are occupied only with science, and he dreams of rising above man, having learned the secrets of alchemy.
Zeno was born in Bruges. His mother was Hilzonda, sister of Henri-Just, and his father was the young prelate Alberico de Numi, a scion of an old Florentine family. The handsome Italian easily seduced the young Flemish woman, and then returned to the papal court, where a brilliant career awaited him. The betrayal of her lover inspired the young woman with aversion to marriage, but one day her brother introduced her to the gray-bearded god-fearing Simon Adriansen, who introduced Hilsonda to the evangelical faith. When the news reached Bruges that Cardinal Alberico de Numi had been killed in Rome, Hilzonda agreed to marry Simon, Zeno remained in his uncle's house - his stepfather never managed to tame this little wolf cub.
Henri-Just taught his nephew to his brother-in-law Bartolomé Campanus, canon of the Church of St. Donatus. Some of Zeno's acquaintances worried his relatives: he willingly made friends with the barber Ian Meyers and the weaver Kolas Gel. Ian was unmatched in the art of bleeding, but he was suspected of secretly dismembering corpses. Kolas, on the other hand, dreamed of making the work of cloth makers easier, and Zeno created drawings for machine tools. In the barber's pharmacy and in the workshop of a weaver, the schoolboy learned what the wisdom of books could not give him. However, the weavers disappointed the young man - these absurd ignoramuses tried to break his looms. Once the house of Henri-Just was visited by Princess Marguerite, who liked the handsome impudent schoolboy: she expressed a desire to take him into her retinue, but Zeno preferred to set off on a journey. Henri-Maximilian soon followed suit. Having failed with the eldest son, Henri-Just placed all his hopes on the youngest - Philibert.
At first, the rumor about Zeno did not subside. Many claimed that he had comprehended all the secrets of alchemy and medicine. It was also said that he desecrated cemeteries, seduced women, confused with heretics and atheists. He was allegedly seen in the most distant countries - according to rumors, he made a fortune by selling the secret of the Greek fire invented by him to the Algerian Pasha. But as time went on, Zeno gradually began to be forgotten, and only Canon Campanus sometimes remembered his former student.
Simon Adriansen and Hilzonda lived in peace and harmony for twelve years. The righteous gathered in their house - those to whom the light of truth was revealed. The news spread that in Münster the Anabaptists had driven out the bishops and municipal councilors - this city had become the Jerusalem of the dispossessed. Simon, having sold his property, rode off to the City of God with his wife and little daughter Martha. Soon the citadel of virtue was surrounded by Catholic troops. Hans Bockhold, who formerly bore the name of John of Leiden, proclaimed himself the king-prophet. The new Christ had seventeen wives, which served as an undeniable proof of the power of God. When Simon left to collect money for a holy cause, Hilzonda became the eighteenth. Intoxicated with ecstasy, she barely noticed how the bishop's soldiers rushed into the city. Mass executions began. Hilzonda's head was cut off, and Martha was hidden by the faithful servant until Simon returned. The old man did not reproach his deceased wife with a word: he blamed only himself for her fall. He did not have long to live, and he entrusted Martha to his sister Salome - the wife of the richest banker Fugger. The girl grew up in Cologne with her cousin Benedict. Martin Fugger and Just Ligre from Bruges, eternal rival friends, decided to pool their capitals: Benedict was to marry Philibert. But when the plague broke out in Germany, Salome and Benedict died. The wife of Philibert Liger of Mart's herd. All her life she was tormented by a sense of guilt, for she renounced the evangelical faith bequeathed by her parents and could not overcome the fear that drove her away from the bed of her fading sister. The doctor, a tall, thin man with gray hair and a dark complexion, was a witness to her weakness.
Zenon moved from Cologne to Innsbruck. Here the cousins met again. Twenty years passed - it was possible to summarize, Henri-Maximilian rose to the rank of captain: he did not regret leaving home, but life turned out not at all the way he dreamed. Zeno learned a lot, but came to the conclusion that learned men are not in vain burned at the stake: they can gain such power that they will push the entire globe into the abyss - however, the human race does not deserve a better fate. Ignorance goes hand in hand with cruelty, and even the search for truth turns into a bloody masquerade, as happened in Münster. Zeno did not keep silent about his troubles: his book "Predictions of the Future" was recognized as heretical, so he needs to hide and constantly change his place of residence.
Soon, Henri-Maximilian died at the siege of Siena. And Zeno had to flee from Innsbruck, and he decided to return to Bruges, where no one remembered him. The Ligers left this city long ago - Philibert was now one of the most influential and wealthy people in Brabant. Calling himself the name Sebastian Theus, the alchemist confided in his old friend Ian Meyers, in whose house he settled. At first, Zeno thought that he would stay in this quiet refuge for a short while, but gradually he realized that he had fallen into a trap and was doomed to wear someone else's disguise. He maintained friendly relations only with the prior of the Franciscan monastery; he was the only person who showed tolerance and open-mindedness. Dr. Theus was increasingly seized by his disgust for people - even the human body had many flaws, and he tried to come up with a more perfect device. From a young age, he was attracted by the three stages of the Great Deed of the alchemists: black, white and red - dismemberment, re-creation and connection. The first phase required his entire life, but he was convinced that the path exists: after the decay of thought and the decay of all forms, either true death or the return of the spirit, liberated and cleansed of the filth of the surrounding life, will come.
The half-mad servant Katarina poisoned old Jan, and Zeno again felt drawn to wander, but he could not leave the Prior, who was painfully dying from the water in his throat. The opposition of Saturn did not bode well for both of them. Monks left unattended. more and more often they violated the statute, and some brothers indulged in secret fornication. Having opened a hospital at the monastery, Zeno took Cyprian, a village boy, who took monastic vows at the age of fifteen, as his assistants. Troubled times were conducive to denunciations, and after the death of the prior, the case of monastic orgies was opened. During interrogation with partiality, Cyprian accused his master of complicity. Sebastian Teus was immediately captured and amazed everyone by giving his real name.
Zeno wasthink that he was forgotten. The ghost, who lived in the back streets of human memory, suddenly found flesh and blood in the guise of a sorcerer, apostate, a foreign spy. The dissolute monks were put to death at the stake. Upon learning of this, Zeno suddenly felt a pang of conscience: as the creator of the Greek fire that killed hundreds of thousands of people, he was also involved in villainy. Then he wanted to leave this hell - earth. However, at the trial, he defended himself quite skillfully, and public opinion was divided: the people who suffered from the machinations of Philibert spread their anger to Zeno, while the relatives and friends of the Ligers secretly tried to help the accused. Canon Campanus sent a messenger to the banker. But Martha did not like to remember the man who guessed her rhinestone, and Philibert was too careful to risk his position for the sake of a dubious cousin. The fate of Zeno was decided by the testimony of Katharina, who stated that she helped poison Ian Meyers: according to her, she could not refuse the villainous doctor who inflamed her flesh with a love potion. The rumors of witchcraft were fully confirmed, and Zeno was sentenced to be burned. The people of Bruges were eagerly awaiting this spectacle. On the night of February 18, 1569, Canon Campanus came to prison to persuade Zeno to bring public repentance and thereby save his life. The philosopher flatly refused. After the priest left, he took out a carefully hidden narrow blade. At the last minute, the skill of the barber-surgeon, of which he was so proud, came in handy. Having cut open the tibial vein and the radial artery on the wrist, he clearly saw the three phases of Acts: the blackness turned green, turning into pure whiteness, the muddy whiteness turned into crimson gold, and then a scarlet ball fluttered right before his eyes Zeno still had time to hear the steps of the jailer, but now people were to him are not scary.