I have promised to say a little more about Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Here then, are some not-too-serious observations:
Both novel and not-very-successful film were entertaining rubbish, but I found it slightly irritating that Mr Brown seemed to be implying that he has based his story upon accurate facts. I can’t comment on his ideas about Leonardo, or Opus Dei ... but, for Pierre Plantard - the Priory of Sion - Jesus - Mary Magdalene - and so on, I can only say: “Facts?!!? I’d love to see your sources, Honeybunch.“
The Priory of Sion, Mr Brown tells us, is “a real organisation”? Really? Who says so? (And that’s a pertinent question.) “... Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale,” he claims, “discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets ...”
Oh, I give up! The Bibliothèque Nationale has never ‘discovered’ anything - and the Dossiers Secrets are not ‘parchments’.
I could go on ... All or any of these ideas should be perfectly acceptable in a work of fiction – but here they are loudly proclaimed to be truths, and millions of people have been seriously misled and continue fervently to believe in the veracity of Mr Brown’s fantasies.
Howsoever and be that as it may ... a fictional treatment of the story is no bad idea. And it should not be forgotten that, before I stumbled upon Rennes-le-Château, I was a working writer for television, already with a couple of hundred screen credits. They were all drama scripts – Lost Treasure of Jerusalem ... ? was my first documentary film - so it’s not surprising that thoughts of ‘fictionalising’ the Saunière story had drifted into my head.
However, I felt that, being committed to the reality of Rennes-le-Château, I would now find ‘playing with it’ rather uncomfortable. But I was sure that someone, some day, would see the possibilities. True, I know a great deal more about the subject than does Mr Brown, but some of his story-telling techniques seem to me to be more than a little laboured and he has missed some splendid chances.
(His knowledge of France and French culture, I find somewhat limited. And who, en passant, has ever encountered a Frenchman with a name like “Bézu Fache”?)
I consider his principle failure, though, to lie in his choice of hero. All right ... he has two excuses. First, he’d already, I understand, introduced the character in an earlier book and wanted to use him again. Understandable. But his story and its main setting lie in France. This American character doesn’t ‘belong’- he’s the proverbial ‘sore thumb’. Though - and here’s Brown’s second excuse – if you want Hollywood to show interest, you must have an American leading man.
And it’s in this latter point, through ignorance of the story’s background, that he missed a marvellous opportunity. The story can legitimately have an American hero. Indeed, I could begin the story in America ... specifically, in Louisiana, where live the Cajuns (who would, of course, have provided the music for the film.)
For those of you who are not aware of this fact, ‘Cajun’ is all that remains of the original name ‘Arcadian’. They were the dwellers in Arcadia - the country which Nicolas Fouquet - (King Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance) - had attempted to establish in Canada. And Fouquet, remember, had learned “a secret which kings would have pains to draw from him”.
When Canada finally became “British”, the French Arcadians left, eventually to become the Cajuns of Louisiana. And with them would have gone whatever secrets Fouquet had entrusted to them when they left France.
Even without exploring the idea any further, it’s possible to see how much more satisfying - and true to its origins - the story could have become ... and with a genuinely American leading man - and music - to boot!
* * * * *
AN UNEXPECTED CONTRIBUTOR TO THE MYSTERY
Here’s another fragment which has surfaced from my archive. I remember first stumbling upon it when working on The Holy Blood & the Holy Grail and being surprised to find that someone like Kipling should have been pursuing such ideas. It gave me much food for thought. For a while, I had it pinned, with other quotes, to the beam above my desk.
|He that hath a Gospel
To loose upon mankind,
Though he serve it utterly -
Body, soul and mind -
Though he go to Calvary
Daily for its gain -
It is his Disciple
Shall make his labour vain.
|He that hath a Gospel,
For all earth to own
Though he etch it on the steel,
Or carve it on the stone -
Not to be misdoubted
Through the after-days -
It is his disciple
Shall read it many ways.
|It is his disciple
(Ere those bones are dust)
Who shall change the charter,
Who shall split the trust -
Rationalise the Claim,
Preaching that the Master
Would have done the same.
|It is his disciple
Who shall tell us how
Much the Master would have scrapped
Had he lived to now -
What he would have modified
Of what he said before -
It is his disciple
Shall do this and more.
||He that hath a Gospel
Whereby Heaven is won -
(Carpenter or Cameleer,
Or Maya’s dreaming son) -
Many swords shall pierce him,
Mingling blood with gall;
But His Own Disciple
Shall wound him worst of all.
I pass it on now, so that those of you who have never encountered it before, may be given matter for quiet consideration. If - for some of you - it does not chime with your own views ... (as it may not with mine, remember!) ... then - ponder upon another of my favourite quotations, which I try to keep always in mind. The words come from Oliver Cromwell :
I beseech ye ... in the Bowels of Christ ... to consider that
Ye may be mistaken ...
I WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY - AND ABOVE ALL - AN INTERESTING