Melmoth the Wanderer

As the name suggests, Melmoth The Wanderer is about Melmoth, a man who trades his soul with the devil for an added 150 years to live. Using this, he travels the world, trying to tempt people into exchanging their place with him so that they get to live the extra years. Unlimited happiness and joys come to the man who switches over with Melmoth but true to little facts which are often overlooked, there is a small glitch. Though the man would get to live much more than a normal life, he is damned to eternal damnation after death.

Melmoth The Wanderer written by Charles Robert Maturin is a confusing book to say the least. There are many layers and sub-layers which render the reader to wander off on many paths. One needs to pay immense attention to the prose and direction in which the novel proceeds. There are five stories in the book, all of them about Melmoth. That’s not the difficult part. All of these stories are related by different characters and this is where the clincher lies. The reader needs to remember who is relating a particular story to understand the brevity and magic of it. The stories are all embroiled inside one another and it becomes a bit of a test on the mind if you are not entirely focussed. Get a cup of coffee or rather endless mugs of it, close the drapes, switch off the phone and douse yourself in Maturin’s narration. The journey is tiresome but the rewards are great. Melmoth is an entirely imaginative book and which has been lost in the annals of history unlike some of its compatriots.

Melmoth The Wanderer is a Goth horror story but that is not where the buck stops. It is much more than that. Maturin was an Irish Protestant clergyman and that shows in his writings. He denounces Roman Catholicism and uses the book as a medium to preach through his character’s voices. While I do realize that many people do not want their books to get preachy, it is a good enough piece of writing to give a chance to. Couple this with the social issues hounding 19th Century England and Maturin discusses the whole gamut.

The primary character of Melmoth is a contradiction of sorts. The plot suggests that he is not a nice person, considering he moves around trying to convince others to take his place for eternal damnation. But there is a certain pathos in his situation which appealed to me and made me a tad bit sympathetic to his plight. He wanders lonely and alone, secure in the fact that he is doomed. The initial burst of ecstasy of getting 150 years’ worth of time to pursue greater knowledge dies off and all he is left with is a never-ending search for hope. Yes, it is hope he scours for, hope for himself, that someone else would take his place and he would be rescued from his damnation.