|The Albigenses: This is what they did to heretics in the Middle Ages. Notice the mountains as a key scenic backdgrop for this story- near the border of the then kingdom of Aragon, which was an Albigenses/Cathar refuge.|
The Albigenses (1824)
by Charles Maturin
Volume one: SDSU library copy 5/29/14
Arno Press edition 1974
The Albigenses is BY FAR the toughest get yet encountered among the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. The 1001 Books summary doesn't hide the ball either, stating, "Never re-printed after 1824, The Albigenses is only in a few research libraries world wide." So how the hell does a book that is essentially impossible to find one of the 1001 Books I need to read before I expire? I would argue that its very unavailability makes it NOT one of the 1001 books I need to read before I die.
I finally tracked down a copy using the San Diego Public Libraries "San Diego Circuit" inter-library request form. When I went to pick it up, I got only volume one of what is by all accounts a four volume set, which means I believe I may need to request each volume separately, and frankly, I'm in no particular hurry to complete The Albigenses having already gone 420 pages in. Does that mean it's 1600 pages total? YIKES. No wonder it hasn't been reprinted.
To me, putting The Albigenses on any "must read" list is a cruel trick. Bear in mind, there is no Ebook version- free or otherwise, whatsoever. Buying a reprint copy will cost you 20 dollars a volume. Annnnddd most importantly it is not that great a book- I can tell that one volume in. It's not bad- the 12th century historical setting among the Crusaders persecuting the Cathar heresy, is one of the more intriguing historical/romance/gothic settings out there.
But between it being essentially unavailable, expensive to purchase when it is available, and 1600 pages long, it is frankly hard to imagine what the editor of 1001 Books was thinking when he "Oked" this recommendation. I mean, you'd have to be mad.
I will say that the foreward by James Gray and the introduction by Dale Kramer- both penned for this Arno Press 1974 edition- are worth reading independent of the book itself. Being as The Albigenses is a book that is simply unread, accurate, insightful commentary is difficult/impossible to find. One important fact I gleaned from the introduction is that The Albigenses is one of the first novels to use a werewolf- unfortunately he didn't appear in volume one. Maybe volume two. I WILL UPDATE THIS REVIEW AS I READ ADDITIONAL VOLUMES, but I'm not promising anything. It took me three years just to get volume one- volume two could plausibly be another three years away.