Imagine a chocolate truffle made from the most exquisite dark chocolate, with a cream filling lavishly flavored with Grand Marnier. The truffle is small, but it's so rich and the flavors are so complex that you only need one. You can't eat it quickly, you take a small bite, let the flavors reach every single taste bud on your tongue, then with an already impending sense of loss, you pop the rest of the truffle in your mouth. You close your eyes, and you breathe slowly, still savoring the treat while thinking that, surely, this must be what the ancient Greek gods called ambrosia. (Sigh!)
I tasted ambrosia today. Twice. First, a co-worker shared a box of chocolates that she just brought back from France. Then tonight I finished reading a wonderful book that also had to be savored slowly, was full of complexity, and was immensely satisfying. It was liquid prose. I wish I had read it before our trip to Rome last year.
I don't know if the book is available in English, and, if it is, I can only hope that the translation does justice to the language. The author, Víctor F. Freixanes, is an authority on romance languages, and has a doctorate in Galician language and literature. Galicia is a region in Spain, and, much like Cataluña, where Barcelona sits, has its own language and culture. He wrote the book in Galician, but I read the Spanish translation. His style was modern, yet timeless. The sentences were short, but the vocabulary was devoid of slang or contemporary terminology. It's a true testament to the purity and simplicity of the language, that I was able to read it without a dictionary by my side.
The story, an allegory of the battle between good and evil, is set in the Italian Renaissance during the controversial pontificate of Alexander VI. It revolves around the ruthless political machinations of Cesare Borgia, the pope's son, and the wedding of the pope's daughter, Lucrezia Borgia to Alfonso d'Este. It is an interesting study of the manners and customs of the time, and there's a very Spanish spiritual sensitivity running through the fabric of the book, which seems somehow appropriate, considering that the Borgias actually came from Spain. Reading it evoked memories of the grandeur I glimpsed during our visit to Rome. Just for a little bit, I wish I could travel back in time to witness this wedding celebration.
The flavor of ambrosia lingers. I have no desire to read anything else for a while. Michael Connelly's "9 Dragons" is going to have to wait until my palate is cleansed.