Friday, December 01, 2006
The alchemical revival in France at the turning of the nineteenth into the twentieth century involved many colorful figures. Although some were far-out literary geniuses (Rimbaud, Breton, Irène Hillel-Erlanger, Raymond Roussel--the cats behind Surrealism and Dada) who achieved a literary fame, none were so well-known as Fulcanelli, the Master who penetrated the Great Work in the 20th century and revived a lost Art. Of course the irony is that Fulcanelli's fame is attached solely to this evocative pseudonym--his true identity is unknown to history. Those who knew him personally, like Schwaller de Lubicz, Jean-Julien Champagne, or Eugene Canseliet, refused to divulge his identity. This hasn't prevented a slew of books purporting to have solved the mystery, of which Riviere's is the latest.
I won't comment on his argument as to Fulcanelli's true identity, which is interesting. I will say, however, that his book badly needs better editing. I suspect the translator is responsible for the clunky text, including strange grammar faults and often haphazard punctuation. Whoever is to blame, the text approaches unreadability at numerous points. Alchemists and theorists of the Art write prose that is sufficiently difficult to penetrate without such clumsy finishing for publication.