is an inspired retelling of the story of Abelard and Heloise—the French medieval theologian and his brilliant student—whose love affair led to a scandal that has echoed through the centuries. In the affair’s aftermath, Abelard became a monk and Heloise a nun. Forgotten to history was their unwanted son.
Luise Rinser sets at center stage that son and his unique perspective on his legendary parents. The novel is cast in the form of a long letter written by the son, Astrolabe. Addressed to Heloise in the weeks after Abelard’s death, the letter brings the story of this tragic family vividly to life. Rinser offers insights into each of the three participants in this family drama, yet it is the perspective of the aggrieved son that lies at the book’s core. As the distinguished critic and translator Harry Zohn has remarked, “the young man’s melancholy musings . . . add up to an anguished ‘J’accuse’ of epic dimensions.”