Édouard Schuré

A Beam of Sunlight in the Deep Forest

I love this book a lot, it was such an elegant read and gave an interesting insight into the life and mind of Édouard Schuré. I don’t think I’ve come across prose like this before, each line is so poetic, as if every word was destined to be there.

A Beam of Sunlight in the Deep Forest is a collection of Schuré’s mystical prose works which weave together occult symbolism, spirituality and historical fantasy. Each story searches for something, a yearning for more. It also contains many short essays relating to Schuré’s background and philosophy which add layers to the fantasies he creates.

I hadn’t heard of Schuré before this so I didn’t really know what to expect. He has an incredible ability to translate the spiritual realm through fiction in a way that feels so natural. It’s like he had a burning desire to write the story, almost as if he couldn’t keep it inside. He seemed like a man who continuously had a lot to give and wanted to explore so much, exemplified by his prolific nature. A soul never satisfied.

Gaze into my mirror;
Where riddles hold you rapt.
Your questions shall be answered
When my harpoon has been snapped.

He charted his own path, knowing deep down what was meaningful to him and what he wanted from the world. He would see himself surrounded by various movements throughout the late 19th century, though he would eventually become disillusioned by many of them, channelled by the pursuit of the things he felt inside. He distanced himself from the symbolist movement numerous times throughout his life, finding little beyond the cultivation of superficial aesthetics and the fetishisation of language.

The main story in the collection is called, The Angel and the Sphinx, which follows a young knight who is the descendant of a family with an eternal curse. Shunned from the truth, he is fed stories of his ancestral past, though longs to find something more.

‘There is only one thing more terrifying to a man than the thought of his own degradation: it is to no longer believe in his dreams.’

The story flows in a way where you feel as though you’re experiencing the world with the protagonist. You feel his awe, wonder, pain and confusion as he traverses a world that embodies a dream. The knight goes on a crusade discovering things about himself he could never imagine, and coming across people who make him feel ways he has never felt before.

Through his experiences of the world, maybe Schuré sees himself in these stories. Extreme feelings, whether good or bad, can be translated in a way that can be deemed as fiction. A individuals internal world is only as animated as the person who holds it.

‘My dream-life, hidden away in the deepest part of myself and unnoticeable to the outside world. It shone during my soul’s troubled hours like the inextinguishable lamp of a closed sanctuary.’

It’s always difficult to tell with fiction how much the author resonates with the story and where the words come from inside. I guess to complete a story you have to live within it in your mind, though how real this feels it’s hard to ever know. With Schuré however it feels so deeply personal. Each story throughout the collection is underlain with investigation and exploration, as if these are exercises for his own mind.

There seem to have been many turning points in his life that have deeply affected him, and in a way have changed his whole perception of the world. His ability to translate his experiences into words transcend the reality of everyday life. A really beautiful read.

‘In art, as in nature, forms are nothing more than figurations of life. In order for a form to renew itself, life must renew itself first - nothing more, and nothing less.’