My Way to Canossa
a novel by
David Brendan O'Meara
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My Way to Canossa contains five novellas—one impossible blog, three investigations into three very unreliable histories, and one regretful recollection—that each have something to do with the Walk to Canossa, the semi-famous (or semi-obscure) event from the year 1077, an event remembered today mostly for the scene of the Holy Roman Emperor kneeling in the snow outside the gates of Canossa Castle, begging forgiveness from the Pope.
But this is not an historical novel of the Middle Ages.
Instead, My Way to Canossa is a dark comedy that unfolds amid the reactionary politics and technological transformations of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. It’s a novel about the uses and misuses—and sometimes the very high costs—of trying to imagine the past.
In The Blogger’s Tale, an American history buff sets out to document the vacation of a lifetime: in April 2009, he begins a journey from Speyer to Canossa, driving a rented minivan filled with very special passengers: the original historical figures themselves.
Pretenders deals with the search for the real author of The Meek Shall Inherit, an American cable telenovela in which the surprising heroine is Bertha of Savoy, the wife of Henry IV.
The Secret Cellar traces the political and commercial exploitation of the The Song of Henry (Das Heinrichlied), a supposedly Medieval poem that celebrates the “masculine victory” of Henry IV at Canossa.
Verdigris explores the uneasy partnership between a struggling niece and her distinguished aunt, the “co-authors” of Warrior, Daughter, Saint, an ultra-catholic biography of Matilda of Canossa, Henry’s cousin and battlefield opponent.
In The Debtor’s Tale, the Blogger returns. It’s now 2016, and he does his best to reconstruct the story of his journey to Canossa seven years earlier.