The Testament of Yves Gundron

EMILY BARTON graduated from Harvard and the
Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

“It is funny and sexy, with echoes not only of Garcia Marquez, but of Nabokov, Pynchon and, of all things,
Star Trek
… a comedy of cultures in collision, a tragedy of paradise interrupted and a dangerously requited love story.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Rich in emotional depth and intellectual curiosity, this generous, strangely ego-free novel finds sweetness and clarity in ‘that state of affairs we had never known to call Peace'.”
Guardian

“An intriguing debut … This is an imaginative modern fable that looks at what is lost and what is gained as technology and the modern world change forever the traditional way of life.”
The Bookseller

“Once you're off there's no holding you back. Not even with a harness.”
Tatler

“The Testament of Yves Gundron
is an ironic, postmodern take on grand narratives of progress. Barton manages to avoid the potentially over-whelming self-reflexivity of such a strategy through adroitly placed pathos and sympathy.”
Literary Review

“Emily Barton's remarkable first novel proves difficult to define; it straddles genres while possessing a curious familiarity, reminiscent at times of Swift and Peake, set against the landscape of a Brueghel painting.”
Observer

“It takes a curious imagination to create an original and endearing novel around the invention of the harness, but Barton's debut ploughs such a furrow … Leaping genres, and expectations, this quaint folktale mutates quickly into a sci-fi puzzle.”
The Times

“Barton writes like a modernist sympathetic to the ideology of a preromantic luddite. In today's world of e-commerce and digital technology,
The Testament of Yves Gundron
is both poignant and thought-provoking.”
Go

“There are few things more exciting than the discovery of new talent, and with
The Testament of Yves Gundron
Emily Barton has proved that she has both talent and heart.”
The Scotsman

“An unusual, imaginative and deeply engrossing tale … Barton's debut novel becomes something far more intelligent and complex than suggested by the fable-like tone of its early pages, resulting in a lyrical meditation on the notion of progress that is as fascinating as it is enchanting.”
Metro

“In Mandragora, Barton creates a village that seems true to life with evocative language and a memorable narrator. As the story speeds along mixing humour with morality, we share Yves' joy at progress but also the seeds of doubt sown alongside it.”
The List

“Emily Barton's debut; is intelligent, skilfully handled and a very odd mixture of antiquity and topicality. Barton's
Testament
is a simple allegory, a comedy of cultures in collision, a love story and a confessional.”
Big Issue in the North

“If the power of imagination is your thing, this won't fail to disappoint. Impressive stuff.”
Uncut

“An essential read.”
Scottish Book Collector

THE TESTAMENT OF
YVES GUNDRON

THE TESTAMENT OF

YVES GUNDRON

EMILY BARTON

CANONGATE

First published in the United States of America
in 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

First published in Great Britain by
Canongate Books Ltd, 14 High Street,
Edinburgh EH
I
I
TE

This digital edition published in 2014

Copyright © Emily Barton, 2000
The moral right of the author has been asserted

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available on
request from the British Library

ISBN 1 84195 231 1
eISBN 9781782116127

www.canongate.tv

For my father, and in memory of my mother

“Heavens! how they caught me as I left the room, the fangs of that old pain! the desire for some one not there. For whom? I did not know at first; then remembered Percival. I had not thought of him for months. Now to laugh with him, to laugh with him at Neville—that was what I wanted, to walk off arm-in-arm together laughing. But he was not there. The place was empty.

“It is strange how the dead leap out on us at street corners, or in dreams.”

—Virginia Woolf,
The Waves

THE
TESTAMENT
OF

YVES GUNDRON,

YEOMAN FARMER OF

MANDRAGORA VILLAGE,

BEING A
TREATISE

ON THE
NATURE
OF

CHANGE
AND ON

THE
COMING

OF THE
NEW WORLD

EDITED BY RUTH BLUM

Contents

Part I

Chapter One The First Invention

Chapter Two The Arrival

Chapter Three The Archduke

Chapter Four The Great North Meadow

Chapter Five The Exhumation

Intermezzo

Part II

Chapter Six The Harvest

Chapter Seven The Dark Day

Chapter Eight The Journey West Ward

Chapter Nine The Bone-Cold Winter

Acknowledgments

PART I

CHAPTER ONE

THE FIRST INVENTION
1

magine the time of my grandfather's grandfather, when the darkness was newly separated from the light. Society was only a shadowy image of what it would soon become. This was Mandragora before my invention and all that it set in motion. People spoke to one another, but their habits of thought were coarse. People lived in fear. Our forefathers farmed, but with great difficulty; a man used a sharp stick to dig a hole for each seed, and furrowed his fields by dragging his fingernails through them and picking out each small stone. Often a whole spring passed in preparing the ground, and families went hungry or died come winter. They had fire, but they had no candles, nor did they have proper looms—when a woman made cloth for her household, she wound the woof through each strand of warp, and tamped down each row of weaving with her fingers. It took so long to make a bolt of cloth that growing children went about in tatters because their mothers could not keep pace. Men knew how to count and keep tally, but they had no numbers bigger than twenty. Twenty acres was the size of Mandragora's largest farm (my grandfather's, which I
cultivate still), and twenty sheep the size of its largest flock; what need had they to reckon the infinite? Men's faculties may have been as well developed as ours, but they spent so much effort scratching their existence from the soil that they had no time for ideas or contemplation. What sufficed sufficed; and however much men might have profited from introspection, their days were full of drudgery that kept it at bay.

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