The Tomb Guardians
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Recommended by John
‘Quiet, compelling and deeply moving, with two sets of completely believable speakers – a pair of art historians discussing Bernhard Strigel’s 15th century painting ‘The Tomb Guardians’, and the hapless tomb guardians themselves.’
From the publisher
You’re not likely to encounter another book like this in a hurry. Brilliantly (and wittily) weaving together art history, psychology and theology, it invites us to think about imagination and truth, presence and absence, and the way in which human beings manage to avoid noticing what is significant – but not quite successfully enough to make them comfortable.
As two people quietly discuss Bernhard Strigel’s paintings of the guardians at the tomb, their voices blend and clash with the panicked voices of the guards themselves. A stunning short novel.
Given Griffiths’s career as a librettist and musicologist, a distinctly Da Ponte-ish symmetry between “high” and “low” voices and a certain exactitude of pacing and weight, it is tempting to postulate music as a suggestive absence in the book, a kind of dark matter that might fill and charge the spaces between and alongside the words.
Keith Miller, The TLS
Paul Griffiths movingly explores the primary need for attentiveness in our lives, how impossible that is for us to maintain and how art can help us grasp the contradiction… rich grounds for reflection.
Gabriel Josipovici, The TLS
The Tomb Guardians awake to find the tomb empty and one of their number missing. Their conversation overlaps with another – an anguished lecturer and friend exploring the Renaissance Master portraits they occupy. One looks back at the dawn of the Reformation, the other thrashes out an excuse.