Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Last Duel: Channeling Froissart

Eric Jager's The Last Duel (New York, 2004) is written in the spirit of Froissart. And I don't mean it in a good way. I mean that just like Froissart, Jager likes to present a vivid and compelling narrative full of convincing detail, and he doesn't mind making stuff up to do it. This is from the big fight scene, with Le Gris down and Carrouges trying to finish him off:

Finally Carrouges stopped and began fumbling instead with the lock that held the visor shut. Le Gris, realizing the knight's aim, struggled all the harder. He rocked from side to side and wrenched his head around to thwart the attempt on the lock, all the while grasping uselessly in the sand for his sword.

Exciting stuff, but there's nothing like it in the historical documents describing the 1386 combat. Jager is guessing, and guessing badly. No surviving 14th c. helmet visor had a positive mechanical closure.

The good thing about Froissart was that even if Froissart invented details about a particular medieval deed of arms, he based them on things that he had actually seen.

That said, the end notes and bibliography in The Last Duel are a useful resource

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I noticed that fight scene too!

Even the bibliography of the book leaves something to be desired. Jager omitted Monique Chabas' Le duel judiciaire en France (XIIe - XVIe si├Ęcles), which is rather surprising, given that it is the only other book-length work on French judicial duels published in the previous hundred years or so.

Ariella Elema