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A candle for d’Artagnan

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

485 pages
1989 - États-Unis
SF, Fantasy - Roman

Intérêt: *

 

On n'en est pas toujours conscient, mais si d'Artagnan n'avait pas été coupé en deux ou à peu près par un boulet de canon à la bataille de Maastricht en 1673, il serait toujours vivant aujourd'hui, trois cents et quelques années plus tard. Il n'y a pas de quoi être surpris: chacun sait que les vampires sont immortels, tant que leur corps n'est pas détruit. Et d'Artagnan, donc, serait...

Eh oui, d'Artagnan était un vampire (ou du moins, le serait devenu s'il était mort de mort naturelle): c'est la révélation de ce roman de Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, écrivain américaine de science-fiction et de fantastique.

Oeuvre bien étrange que ce A candle for d'Artagnan. Contrairement à ce que les lignes précédentes pourraient faire croire, il ne s'agit nullement d'un grotesque roman parodique ou délirant. Les vampires de Mme Yarbro sont des créatures hautement sophistiquées, et son roman est en fait aussi ambitieux que littéraire.

Le personnage principal est Olivia Atta Clemens, aristocrate romaine née sous l'Empire, vampire et donc quasi-immortelle. Personnage fascinant, Olivia traîne à travers les siècles son mal de vivre, sa solitude et son besoin d'amour. Car c'est l'amour sincère de mortels ordinaires qui permet aux vampires de garder leur vitalité à travers les siècles.

Dame Clemens ayant été choisie par Mazarin pour faire partie de sa suite lors de sa venue en France, elles se trouve à rencontrer d'Artagnan: amour fou et partagé, qui amène le mousquetaire à accepter en toute connaissance de cause de se transformer en vampire, conséquence inéluctable de ses relations sexuelles avec Olivia.

Cette passion entre la vampire immortelle et le héros n'est cependant que le fil directeur d'un roman foisonnant dont l'action s'étend sur plusieurs dizaines d'années. Appuyé sur de nombreuses données historiques, le livre aborde aussi bien les complots du Vatican que ceux de la Fronde, les problèmes de gestion des propriétés terriennes ou la politique de Mazarin. Ce dernier, il faut le souligner, est présenté sous un jour entièrement favorable: sincèrement pieux, intelligent, désintéressé. Tout le contraire de l'image qu'en donne habituellement le littérature populaire!

La complexité du roman est sans doute son principal défaut. Malgré une grande qualité d'écriture, le récit est tellement fragmenté que le lecteur s'y perd. Des intrigues sont ébauchées, qui ne se concrétisent pas, et des personnages intéressants apparaissent de manière fugace avant de se perdre.

Signalons par ailleurs qu'en écrivant ce livre, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro n'a pas cherché à rendre hommage à Dumas. Elle renoue en fait avec une tradition assez répandue à la fin du XIXème siècle et au début du XXème: celle d'affirmer vouloir rétablir la vérité historique sur les personnages du romancier. Sa démarche n'est certes pas aussi grossière que celle de Lucien Pemjean dans La jeunesse de d'Artagnan, par exemple, mais l'Américaine explique dans sa préface que son intérêt pour la France de Louis XIII vient certes "partiellement" des romans de Dumas, mais que ces derniers ne brillent pas par leur exactitude historique. Elle énumère quelques unes des "erreurs" de Dumas et précise qu'elle "préfère la vérité".

Elle expose ensuite les recherches historiques auxquelles elle s'est livrée. En conséquence, annonce-t-elle, elle redonne aux personnages leurs véritables noms: Isaac de Portau pour Porthos, Jean-Arnaud de Troisvilles pour Tréville, etc.. Reste qu'utiliser les personnages de Dumas pour écrire un nouveau roman constitue bien une forme d'hommage, même si l'auteur s'en défend...

 Voir l'arbre généalogique de d'Artagnan


Extrait de la quatrième partie Charles d'Artagnan, chapitre 10

This was the third time since Olivia had left France that Charles had been sent to Roma. He had arrived at Senza Pari early on a misty October morning, dressed as a Jesuit and carrying two cases of property and documents to Olivia.

She met him in the small salon that faced on the old garden, decked out in a very fashionable day-gown of sea-green silk over two exposed petticoats, one of fine embroidered muslin and the other of striped taffeta. The corsage had a narrow ruff of standing pleated lace and she had her hair caught up in ribbons. Her smile made her face luminous.

"It's been too long," Charles said when he stopped kissing her. "I would have come sooner, but-"

"But Mazarin has suffered too many changes of fortune to permit you to come here unless there is business to do," she said, trying to keep the wistfulness from her voice. "I think he would not let me come to Paris again for similar reasons."

"It is five years, Olivia," said Charles, his smile lopsided as he went on. "You no longer seem an older woman to me; now we are the same age." He touched her face. "Is that how it will be with me, too? That I will look no older than the day I . . . die?"

"Yes," said Olivia seriously, then put her arms around his waist once more.

"Don't think of it now, my love. If we had days and days to do nothing more than ask each other silly questions, it would be different, but-"

"But," she concurred. "Come; Niklos will see that you have breakfast and a little time to yourself, if that's what you want, and-"

"If I wanted time to myself, I would remain in Roma at the Lateran," he said bluntly.
"I am here to be with you. Let me have an hour or two to sleep with you beside me, and then we can forget the rest of the day together, and the night as well."

Olivia could not keep from smiling into his eyes, her face radiant. "How wonderful," she said.

"It is, isn't it?" He bent and kissed her once, lightly. "The hall to your room is at the top of the stairs, isn't it? I remember correctly, don't I?" He touched her hair. "It's still short, isn't it?"

"Not as short as it was," said Olivia. "It will take another six or seven years before it is as long as it was in Paris." She reached up and flipped off his priestly hat. "No grey, that's pleasant," she said. "It has been more than two years, Charles. I was . . ." It became hard for her to speak. "I was afraid you had decided I was not worth the-"

He put his fingers to her lips. "If you say anything more I will be angry with you, and I do not want to be angry with you, I want to be drunk with love of you." He slid his hands to her neck, so that he could turn her face up to his. "I could never believe you were not worth whatever price was placed on you." (...)

Olivia felt the breath move in him with the same steadiness of waves on a beach. She let herself be rocked by it, feeling how much his breath was himself. Though she did not sleep, she dozed, and welcomed the waking dreams of the other times they had spent the days and nights in a world that consisted of little more than their arms and bodies and kisses and union. It would be hard, she thought, to have to leave that behind when he came to her life, but once they both were vampires, they would not be able to give each other that inescapable need - life. In all her hundreds of years, Olivia had never been jealous of those sought by the men of her blood, but she suspected that this time it might be different, that this time she would begrudge every partner he had the life they could give him when she could not. She was both smug and shamed by this realization, and wondered how Charles would feel in a century's time? Would he still yearn for her, or would she be his most treasured memory and most enduring friend?

There was always the chance, she reminded herself, that he would not change when he died, that the predations of war would destroy his body so that he would not wake into her life. The idea was so distressing, so distasteful, that she thrust it away as she had for so long held off all memories of her years of torturous marriage to Cornelius Justus Silius. Rather that Charles have dozens of lovers, each more doting than the last, and that he adore every one of them, than that he fall, shattered, on the field of battle.

"What's wrong," asked Charles, his arm pulling her on top of him.

"No . . . nothing," said Olivia, taken by surprise. The light in the room had shifted, and she realized that it was now past mid-day.

"What nothing?" Charles insisted, looking directly up into her face. "What nothing, Olivia?"

She gave a small, jerky shrug. Unhappy thoughts, that's all. I suppose any woman who loves a soldier has them from time to time."


 

 

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