I’ve just finished Laurus, a novel by the Russian author Eugene Vodolazkin, an Orthodox Christian, and I’m still savoring the experience, which is one of being immersed in the medieval mind.
The novel is the story of Arseny, who as a lad is apprenticed to his grandfather, a physician. Arseny has a gift of healing that goes beyond his expertise in herbal remedies. A love story ensues, which sets him on a quest for atonement, both for himself and for the woman he caused to sin. Arseny becomes a “holy fool.” Then, accompanied by a western Catholic who has visions of the future, he sets off on a long and perilous pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Then he becomes a monk. Then an anchorite. And, overall, a kind of saint.
The book is “immersive”–that is, wholly involving, so that reading it creates the illusion of entering the mind of someone who inhabits 15th century Russia, an amalgam of earthiness, superstitions, visionary experiences, medieval lore, intimations of eternity, and open-hearted piety. [Read more…]