What was New England like between the years of the Thanksgiving tale and the Declaration of Independence? Patrick, a witness of those frightful days, left a timeworn manuscript to tell us.
Born of an unknown father and of an indentured Irish servant, Patrick is an actor and a casualty of the transformation that tamed the New World’s wilderness into groomed fields.
He roved the coastal Plantations in the arms of his fugitive mother and, as a toddler, lived the horror of King Philip’s Indian War. He sailed the Mississippi to Louisiana, and the Saint Lawrence on a war brig. From Quebec to Savanah he stumbled across French voyageurs, Spanish adventurers, and American seadogs. He chanced upon a poignant Acadian exile evicted from her rustic island by its British rulers.
Through his vagrant years, the young man longs to return to his foster father’s farm whence he was evicted a child. In the attempt, he gets run off, shot at and in love, all dodging swindlers and cannon balls in good humour, and learning from experience. But the bugle blares and the bells are peeling. Boston is under siege, the Revolution is on.
«Delusions, no matter how vividly felt, have to surrender to facts. But when the boundaries between facts and fancy are blurred together, and either is less credible than dreams, which of the two a witness should believe?»
Picaresque it is:
The word is originally Spanish and Spaniards will tell you that a “picaro” is an amiable rogue. Bilingual dictionaries, less charitably, may say that he is a “rough and dishonest, but appealing champion”. Scholars have had a long experience with such fictional persons. I can think of Lazarillo de Tormes, Guzman de Alfarache, or Tartarin de Tarascone… all disappeared from the shelves of most libraries, who have, nonetheless, the merit of having engendered such better known characters as Tom Jones, Huckleberry Finn or, more recently, Holden Caulfield “The catcher in the rye”; Picaros, these last ones, of less bombast but of more recent renown.
It is in a French dictionary that I found a suitable definition of the term that I have used to underscore my book: “A picaresque novel is the autobiographical account of a young, destitute individual living at the margin of society and of its crumbs. By his extravagant adventures, the protagonist denounces the rituals and manners of the sensible, responsible and well to do members of his community”: a fitting description of the star actor of my book.
I did not set out to write a “picaresque” novel. It was only a few weeks before publication that I realized that my hero perfectly adhered to that old and nearly forgotten literary genre. There is no reason for such amnesia. Our contemporary world is full of these witty, wily yet endearing characters. I thought the time was ripe to add a new affiliate to that lively line.
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