When I met M. Hartz, he was a naturalist and dealer who ran his business affairs in a quiet way, selling minerals, insects or plants to collectors.
Thankfully I read and thoroughly enjoyed Mauprat a decade or so ago. If I had started my George Sand journey with Laura: A Journey into the Crystal, it may have ended right here. This is the weirdest little book I think I have ever read.
I have no idea it’s purpose, or what Sand intended me, or any other reader, to take from it. Was it a dream fantasy or a science fiction horror story? Was it a coming of age love story or a philosophical ramble? Who knows?
It’s only saving grace was it’s slimness, so that I could read it in a couple of quick sessions, scratching my head the whole time. I tried to research it, but no-one else seemed to know either. I only found publisher notes and second hand book sales. On Goodreads one and two star reviews abounded. I’m not the only one who found it to be incoherent, uninteresting, disjointed, heavy-handed, and just plain odd.
Laura’s special ability is one that allows her to transport herself inside a geode. Or is it? Maybe it’s just her cousin, Alexis who can get lost inside the brilliant world of a geode. However it works, Alexis meets Laura in the geode and it is here they fall in love. Or do they?
A Jules Verne-like journey takes us across crystal plains, climbing up into sharp, sparkling spikes into the heart of the geode. Or does it? Is it all a dream sequence or a hallucinatory experience? Who knows? Who cares?
I’m sure if I tried hard enough I could talk about the struggle between science and mystery, beauty and nature. If I cared enough, I could discuss various aspects like destiny, materialism, racism and colonisation. But I don’t.
I’ve pulled out three quotes that caught my eye enough to underline:
- The artist was born to be a traveller; everything is a journey for his spirit
- if your whole life is nothing but an application to material things, you might just as well be iron yourself, in other words an inert substance deprived of reasoning.
- in this land, thoughts walk and feet follow.
If you’ve read Laura and have some insights to throw my way, feel free. Watch out for a response from Bill when he gets a chance to read this too.
Book: Laura: A Journey Into the Crystal Author: George Sand Translator: Sue Dyson (English translation 2004) ISBN: 9781782274148 Publisher: Pushkin Press Date: 2018 (originally published 1864) Format: Paperback
(originally posted on This Reading Life by Brona’s Books)