Jonathan Ball Publishers has shared an excerpt from I am Pandarus, the new novel from acclaimed author Michiel Heyns.
I am Pandarus has been shortlisted for the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction at the 2018 Media24 Books Awards.
Heyns is the author of seven previous novels, and the winner of the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction.
I am Pandarus is a retelling, from a modern perspective, of the story of Troilus and Criseyde, as previously told by Chaucer and Shakespeare. The narrator in Michiel Heyns’s lively iteration is the go-between, Pandarus. But the novel opens in a gay bar in present-day London when an editor at a publishing house, recently abandoned by his lover, is accosted by a charismatic stranger.
Read an excerpt from the novel, in which Pandarus introduces his tale:
The first principle of rhetoric, we are told, is that the teller of a sad tale must show a sad face: don’t be caught smiling at the misadventures of your characters, lest your listeners doubt your good
faith, or, more disastrously, the seriousness of your tale. Clowns are a penny a dozen; tragedians are a rare and distinguished breed.
So bear with me while I compose my countenance and commence the grievous history of Troilus and Criseyde – and there’s no point in pretending that there is any possibility of a happy ending.
This is not that kind of story, the newfangled kind that keeps you guessing before rewarding you or disappointing you at the whim of the author. This is a story dealing with recorded history or at any rate legend; and it is a matter of public or literary record that Criseyde betrayed Troilus in the end – not to mention, depending on what one takes the end to be, the little matter of the sack of Troy by the Greeks. There are no surprises in this story: the wheel of Fortune has never been known to reverse its direction.
My matter, then, is the story of Troilus and Criseyde – including, I might add in all modesty, my own part in their history. You’ll know, of course, the basics of the story: the siege of Troy is probably the best-documented military action in history or legend, as is its ostensible cause, the extremely unwise abduction of Helen by Paris – as good an instance as any in history of the catastrophic consequences of irresponsibility in high places. Had Helen been a milkmaid, Menelaus a small farmer, and Paris really the shepherd he was pretending to be, we’d have had some spilt milk, hurt pride and a broken nose or two; but, Paris being the spoilt son of the king of Troy, and the favourite of Aphrodite herself, what we got was the sacking of a city, and a slew of epic, tragic and even comic literature.
My story starts, then … well, it starts with the abduction of Helen, and that story starts, of course, with a squabble amongst three goddesses, and an unwise judgement by a young prince …