Just What Is The “Book Of Fate”?
In Jean-Baptiste Francois Xavier Cousin De Grainville’s The Last Man Palemos tells a story to Omegarus about Idamas, where Idamas enters a temple and pleads with God to save the earth, Idamas then hears a voice in the temple telling him; “The destiny of earth is bound up with the life of one man, named Omegarus, who will arrive here tomorrow from the east. You and your companions will conduct him through the skies to distant shores. A book lodged in the sanctuary of this temple will tell you the country where you are to descend, and it will reveal the divine plan to you”(Grainville 22). Why is there a need for a book? The rest of this story revolves around biblical stories and visions, so why is a book needed at this point in the story? I feel that Grainville is reminding us, the reader, that there is “A” book. And this book needs to read and followed to explain the fate of mankind. Grainville’s education and religious lifestyle would have demanded that he make one last attempt to “save” mankind before he kills himself. It is no coincidence that Grainville has the book lodged in the sanctuary of the temple. This is where we see Idamas taking on the role of Mosses and leading his people to safety.
I don’t think anyone can read this novel(?), epic poem(?) without considering Grainville’s personal history. As a Christian and an educated man he was divided in his own thoughts and beliefs. While he believed Malthus’s theory on population and the limits of resources the earth holds, he also believed that God would take care of his people. The ending shows us just how much Grainville was doubting his own religious beliefs. Canto X shows us the Spirit of the Earth’s spiral out of control, and Death’s calm understanding of what was happening. The Spirit saw Death “as the sole cause of the death of mankind, the destruction of the earth, and of all the calamities that threatened the world”(Grainville 124). What he didn’t realize is that he had contributed just as much if not more to the problem with the “gifts” he had given mankind, the “precious discoveries which were attributed to chance or to human inventiveness, when in fact they were gifts from the Spirit”(Grainville,123). Without these so called gifts, mankind would have continued to follow a natural course of evolution.
My heart aches for Grainville and the confusion he felt over religion and science along with his death as a result of this confusion. I truly feel he was a victim of his times. A man who felt that God had turned his back on him by taking his religion away from him.
Grainville, Jean-Baptiste Francois Xavier Cousin de. The Last Man. Trans. I.F. Clark, M. Clark. Middleton:Wesleyan University
Press, 2002. Print
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