Pascal Quignard is an enigmatic author whose writings rove with great poise across the worlds of literary and artistic endeavour, classical and modern, across folk tale, myth and legend, and yet encapsulate moments of intense present experience, evoking with just a word or a phrase the sense of each moment's suffusion by an enormous cosmic past. Quignard's human beings are troubled, questing souls, fascinated always by the mystery of what preceded them and conceived them - in both the broadest and the narrowest possible senses. Abysses is part of Quignard's 'Last Kingdom' series, which the author himself has described as something 'strange'. It consists, he says, 'neither of philosophical argumentation, nor short learned essays, nor novelistic narration', but comes, rather, from a phase of his work in which the very concept of genre has been dropped or, perhaps more accurately, allowed to fall away. The aim is for an overarching form of thinking - 'an entirely modern vision of the world, an entirely secular vision of the world, an entirely abnormal vision of the world.'
As in the previous volumes in this series published by Seagull, Roving Shadows and The Silent Crossing, the text is a rich mix of anecdote and reflection, of aphorism and quotation, of enigmatic glimpses of the present and confident, pointed borrowings from the past - particularly the European classical past in which the author is so much at home. But when Quignard raids the murkier corners of the human record, he does so not as a historian but as an antiquarian. He is not someone interested in the world for its prim and proper historical narratives (after all, as he points out, 'In the USSR, for example, in the middle of last century, the past was completely unpredictable. For fifty years what had happened in the past changed from one day to the next.'). He is in pursuit, rather, of those stories which repeat and echo across time, stories which, if not literally timeless, dance to a rhythm that we do not ordinarily contemplate, a rhythm that channels a force which seems at times to exceed our everyday conceptions of the transcendent by many orders of magnitude.show more