Tuesday, September 25, 2007

If you're going to sell your soul, I'd go onto eBay for the best price

This autumn's hottest ticket in Prague is the work of Satan, as an 800-year-old work of his goes on show after 359 years of it being hogged by the Swedes, who pinched it during the 30 years war.

Codex Gigas, also known as the Devil's Bible — a medieval manuscript said to have been written 800 years ago with the devil's help — has returned to Prague after an absence of 359 years.

This AP report, written in a prose style which could be used to torment hapless, but literary minded, sinners in the afterlife, has more. The monk who compiled the book is reputed to have sold his soul to the Devil in order to get the thing done in one night. He'd apparently promised to do so to atone for his sins, and... well, logic wasn't really his strong point.

Worse, it's not even an alternative bible , something which might, say tell you to do all the wicked things like wear clothes of more than two fabrics; plant different crops in the same field; criticise the institution of slavery; spill your seed in entertaining, non brat-spawning places and eat sausages which the regular Bible deplores – dash it, it could even have even more juicy, lurid and fruity stories than the original. Instead: 'It contains "a sum of the Benedictine order's knowledge" of the time, including the Old and New Testament, The War of the Jews by the first-century historian Josephus Flavius, a list of saints, or a guideline how to determine the date of Easter.'

In other words the same old stuff everyone has heard before, plus lots of boring facts about obscure things and some rather crude and childish drawings. Not really worth selling your soul for: is it? I have some friends who produce books of boring facts about obscure things for a living, but I doubt very much they would sell their souls just to add some rough jottings to illustrate them.

The question I should like to ask you is: what sort of literary work would you be prepared to sell your soul for? It's not as easy as it may sound, when you consider that the while Devil may, perhaps, arguably have the best tunes (though for my money the harmonies of Spem in Alium beat the opening tritone to Purple Haze); Satan's literary output does not stand up to closer scrutiny. He might have inspired the more memorably bits of Paradise Lost and Les Litanies de Satan, but works attributed to him include tedious, self-aggrandising rants such as Liber Legis; obscure, occult unread and other apocryphal stuff; works by religious nutters of which religious nutters of a different stripe disapprove, and the collected works of Jeffrey Archer.

By contrast, the far more entertaining Devil's Dictionary was solely the work of Ambrose Bierce.

No wonder God claims a near monopoly on the disposition of souls, rather than allowing a proper free market to operate. Ought we to sue in a bit to dismantle this cartel?



Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I might sell my soul for a chick lit novel. But then again, I'd prefer something with more sex in it.


11:24 am  

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