Sunday, 10 June 2018

'Leshi'

The third story in Michael Eisele's collection Tree Spirit is a novella. It's a tale of Old Europe, complete with a crumbling castle, superstitious peasants, wolves with attitude, and a mysterious presence in the forest.

Young nobleman Gregor returns to his Hungarian estate on the death of his father to find his sister Gizela struggling to hold things together. It is widely believed that their father has brought poverty on the family by ignoring the Leshi, a spirit of the forest. The old man was obsessed with finding a lost treasure that was supposedly deposited somewhere in the area many years ago.

Gregor is an interesting example of the quasi-Gothic protagonist, the aristocrat who served with the imperial cavalry and has the usual duelling scar. He is vain and self-regarding, but is brought back to earth by the feisty Gizela, an attractive variation on the tomboy girl from a posh family. The third character is the Leshi him- or itself.

This is a richly-textured tale, beginning with Gregor's journey back from the city on the newfangled railway. Eisele offers some neatly-detailed description of life in Hapsburg Hungary, and the fine distinctions between the German-speaking elite and the Magyar peasantry. Eventually things come right, after a series of visionary experiences that recall Blackwood, among other nature mystics. And Gizela gets herself a boyfriend.

So, another satisfying read. More from this substantial collection very soon.

1 comment:

michael eisele said...

Hi

Just in the interest of adding some trivia, the plot of this story was based on a 19th century Symboliste play,' Axel' by Philippe Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. The only thing I frankly borrowed was the family motto- the rest I made up; it's a great play but I never agreed with the ending.