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"Red Diamond": a treasure hunt in the monastery

“Red Diamond”: a treasure hunt in the monastery

Thomas Hurlimann’s novel The Red Diamond began in a boarding school in a Swiss convent in the 1960s, but gradually evolved into a breathtaking adventure novel.

Swiss monastery Maria zum Schnee looks like “a mountain with a hundred windows” to eleven-year-old Arthur when his mother drives him there. 1963. Soon Bob Dylan Sing his anthem for change, “Times are change.” Even if things go differently at the Swiss boarding school at the moment, the change is in the air.

Arthur, a boy from a good background, becomes pupil with number 230, wearing a robe and sandals. The monastery, which is located at such a high altitude that it snows most of the time, is a world of solitude, where the “eternal day” reigns. Brother Watchmaker sits in the bell tower, Father Silver – with a parrot – dreams of the South Sea in his “book ship”, Prince Abbot Meinradus the Dusker has dementia and is cared for by Brother Odo, who reads Jerry Cotton, while the head of boarding school, Brother Freder Damned, he constantly expands his influence within the walls of the monastery. In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which is currently underway, he wishes that a Church be close to the people and to the disciples whom he “protects from radio waves” neither laziness nor privilege, but modest in the average.

The disciples spend their lives in the halls, “slept in the dormitory, eat in the dining-room, study in the museums,” and Arthur is immersed in a crowd of the same daily routine, so that everyone defecates at the same time, while the deputy governor makes sure that no one He masturbates or reads forbidden books. But “Stone City” has its interesting sides, too. Every year, monks and disciples eagerly await the visit of Zeta, the last empress of Austria, who, accompanied by her devoted retinue, celebrates a requiem for her late husband, Emperor Karl I, and eats them a large schnitzel.

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Thomas Hurlimann knows what to write about. He spent his youth in the sixties at the Swiss monastery Einsiedeln. However, there is neither bitterness nor nostalgia in the novel, but rather a wonderfully ironic tone that takes us to a lost world. However, the real trick is that the boarding school novel is increasingly becoming an adventure story centered on the mysterious red diamond that has changed its notable owners over the centuries, from Cleopatra to the Vatican to the Habsburgs, who died after the latter. It was lost in 1921 when Emperor Karl attempted to recover it and thus did not end up in the hands of the Republic of Austria. The true model of the “red diamond” is the “Florentine”, a historical diamond the size of a walnut, which is mysteriously missing.

Hürlimann’s descriptions of boarding school life are so original that at some point the reader wonders where the colorful reality of the autobiography slips, and the imagination begins, for the quest for diamonds becomes increasingly adventurous for the pupils, and every little trace the author makes now paints that it is woven into a thread My narrative is breathtaking. As friendships and those who love to look and fall, treasure hunters approach diamonds year after year, shed secrets from dying parents and dare dangerous maneuvers that end in the expulsion of a student.

The spirit of change, after the whole 1968 approach, also runs from a treasure hunt. In one of the novel’s most surprising scenes, Arthur, his mother, and his hippie girlfriend Rose Mescaline take what the Shady Snake, long-time chief of the treasure hunters’ group has taken care of, and visit the abbey chapel, hoping to discover the sparkle of diamonds. However, the gems escape.

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Pupils grow up, but they never forget their treasure – not until retirement age. Finally, Hürlimann gives readers a view of cinematic standards, reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films. However, there is a suspicion that the author uses the red diamond as a metaphor to philosophize about the magical things of youth that haunt you for life. Thus, he succeeded in creating a masterpiece of the art of storytelling.

Thomas Hurlimann: “The Red Diamond”, S. Fischer-Verlag, 320 pages, €24.70(c) Publisher S. Fischer