Prolific essayist, translator, and critic Pascal Quignard has described his Last Kingdom series as something unique. It consists, he says, “neither of philosophical argumentation, nor short learned essays, nor novelistic narration,” but comes, rather, from a phase of his work in which the very concept of genre has been allowed to fall away, leaving an entirely modern, secular, and abnormal vision of the world.
In Abysses, the newest addition to the series, Quignard brings us yet more of his troubling, questing characters—souls who are fascinated by what preceded and conceived them. He writes with a rich mix of anecdote and reflection, aphorism and quotation, offering enigmatic glimpses of the present, and confident, pointed borrowings from the past. But when he raids the murkier corners of the human record, he does so not as a historian but as an antiquarian. Quignard is most interested in the pursuit of those stories that repeat and echo across the seasons in their timelessness.