|D.H. Lawrence: Seven titles in the 1001 Books Project|
The Plumed Serpent (1926)
by D.H. Lawrence
Soooo many D.H. Lawrence books within the 1001 Books project. You've got: The Rainbow (1915) , Sons and Lovers (1913), Lady Chatterley’s Lover(1928), Aaron's Rod, The Fox (1922) and Women in Love. Including The Plumed Serpent that is seven titles. The Plumed Serpent is his second to last novel on the list chronologically speaking, The Plumed Serpent ranks a distant second to Lady Chatterley's Lover in terms of the D.H. Lawrence controversy index.
Personally, I found the quasi-fascism and dubious racialism of The Plumed Serpent much more troubling than the bourgeois sexuality of Lady Chatterley's Lover. The Plumed Serpent is also Lawrence's "colonial" novel, with the setting firmly in Mexico (but with a seeming hat tip to the landscape of New Mexico.) Lawrence, of course, was an earlier settler in the Taos area, with his own "Lawrence Ranch" during the time he wrote The Plumed Serpent.
Kate Leslie, the once widowed, once divorced, Irish divorcee is the protagonist. She starts out among expatriate society around Mexico City but finds the company boohhrringg. For lack of something better to do, she drifts out to a rural area where she has heard rumors that "the old gods are coming back." Once there, she befriends local landowning Patron Don Ramon and Don Ciripano, a Mexican general. They are not so subtlety trying to revive the "old religion" becoming Gods in the process.
It was hard not to read The Plumed Serpent as an anticipation of "magical realism," though I feel like the fascistic/racist elements in Lawrences' imagined religious revival of Aztec deities. There is a LOT of speculation about the importance of "the blood" and frankly Nietzschian soliloquies on the part of the would-be deities. It was the kind of literary radicalism that is peculiar to the 20s, after World War I forced artists to question the existing world but before World War II made theories based on blood and race forbidden to intellectuals.
Another observation about The Plumed Serpent is that it is twice the length of any of his prior Novels. Some of his titles have been less than 100 pages, The Plumed Serpent was 433 pages in the Vantage Paperback edition I read. With more generous margins it would have easily topped 500 pages.