More Tales of the Dark Tower : Michel Zevaco – “Buridan, The Hero of the Tower of Nesle”

“Michel Zevaco was that author of genius, who, influenced by Victor Hugo, invented the democratic swashbuckler. His heroes represent the people. They raise and topple empires; predict, in the 14th century, the French revolution; protect weak kings against plotting ministers; and slap down mean kings.” – Jean Paul Sartre

ABOVE: Buridan’s advanced case of gigantism didn’t keep him from living a long and fulfilling life.

A single towering historical event can be assailed from many directions. Michel Zevaco’s “Buridan, The Hero of the Tower of Nesle” deals with the same scandalous affair as Alexandre Dumas’ “La Tour de Nesle” and Maurice Druon’s “The Iron King.” You would think I’d had enough of these accursed parsonages ( Marguerite of Burgundy, Louis the Hutin, Enguerrand de Marigny, Charles of Valois, and the D’Aulnay brothers ) but “Buridan” is its own charming tale.

Zevaco’s work liberally borrows from (and considerably expands on) the Dumas play. Divided in two parts (volume 2 is titled “The Bloody Queen”) here are some 900 pages of swooning heroines, brawling bravos, and intriguing courtiers ( in both senses of the word). Cliffhangers and reversals succeed each 0ther in Zevaco’s trademarked, paradoxic mix of the speedy and the bloated. Less daring writers of the “cape et epee” school may include one missing royal baby, one hidden tunnel, one poisoned cup, one tavern fight. Zevaco laughs, and provides three or four of each, as if to justify Sartre’s comment. This is democratic entertainment, meant for the masses, and it should therefore be massive.

A plot summary for “Buridan” would be headache-inducing. Buridan is the son of Charles of Valois and Anne of Draman, (but he doesn’t know it.) Buridan is in love with Myrtille. Myrtille is the daughter of Queen Marguerite and Enguerrand de Marigny (but she doesn’t know it.) Marigny hates Charles, Charles hates Marigny. Buridan hates Marigny. Marigny loves Marguerite. Marguerite loves Buridan, so she’s in love with her daughter’s boyfriend, which is why she hates Myrtille, then loves Myrtille, then hates Myrtille again. Buridan’s best friend hates Marigny, but loves Marguerite. Charles loves Myrtille, so he’s in love with his son’s girlfriend. Anne of Draman hates Myrtille and Marguerite, then loves Myrtille but still hates Marguerite. Stragildo serves Marguerite, as does Anne de Draman, pretending to be called Mabel. Gillone pretends to serve Myrtille and Marigny but secretly serves Charles, Lancelot de Bigorgne serves Buridan but also used to serve Charles of Valois.

That’s all simple enough to begin with, but then Zevaco starts complicating things.

ABOVE: Meeow. I give up.



6 thoughts on “More Tales of the Dark Tower : Michel Zevaco – “Buridan, The Hero of the Tower of Nesle”

  1. Pingback: The Lightning-Struck Tower : Daniel Hulet – “Morbid State” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  2. Thanks for the article. Ive been reading captain alatriste for a few days now and Its quite enjoyable. Next, Im gonna read Buridan (in Turkish) .

    Tell me have you read the Pardaillan series by zevaco? Its the best thing Ive ever read, and by far the most fun of all the swashbuckling books.Even better than Dumas sometimes. I heartily recommend the whole 10 book series (they might not be avaliable anywhere on Usa though, you may need to use ebooks) only if you havent read them yet.

    • Oh, I read the first Alatriste and liked it fine, but I find Perez-Reverte overwrites a little too much in Spanish (maybe I should check out an English version?) As for Pardaillan, I HAVE read the first volume, but not the whole series yet. I’m actually trying to read Zevaco’s more manageable dyptichs first before I dive into the whole Pardaillan. I am reading another of his right now, ‘The Captain”, and it’s set in “musketeer time.” I mean, you can practically hear Zevaco going like: “And that’s when D’Artagnan – er, I mean, “D’estang” – made his entrance.” Heheh I don’t know if I would say he’s better than Dumas, who is really high on my totem-pole, but yeah, it can definitely be just as entertaining, and certainly faster-paced. I love that sort of stuff, as you probably can tell if you browse around here. Thanks for writing! Zevaco is practically unknown in the US. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person in the world who reads him 😉

  3. Pingback: Captains Courageous # 2 : Michel Zevaco – “The Captain” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

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