If Noel Sanssouci Can Do It, So Can I

Noel Sanssouci got me so jealous by updating and rewriting "Candide" that I decided to throw my hat into the ring as well with a rewriting of "Faust." Not Goethe's Faust, not Marlowe' or Mann's Faust, but the very first Faust from the 16th century, written only 50 years or so after the death of the real-life conjurer, magician and charlatan known under that name.

That first Faust novel, known as the "Volksbuch" or the "Historia," is basically a trashy recounting of all his adventures in sin with the Devil at his beck and call. (The original texts are available online – in the German original and as an excellent English translation; the German original is also available from Klett and Reclam.) It is the Harry Potter fantasy – all the cool things I would do if I knew magic – only cruder. Literarily speaking, this is the first grandfather of Harry Potter – the very first novel (at least that I know of) in the genre "Adventures in Magic." But unlike Harry Potter, it was born from a time when people took magic very seriously and when they also believed in and were afraid of the devil. That's where the comparison with Harry Potter ends: These guys were serious, and I'm sure a lot of people believed that the real Faust had really done all this stuff. That also explains the heavy dose of Protestant fire and brimstone all through the book.

However, when I say "modernize," I don’t mean it in the way Noel Sanssouci means it. Alas, I am not such a modern-thinking man as Noel – my thinking is much closer to the Middle Ages (or in this case, the early Renaissance) than I should be proud of – thus I will not really update the story, i.e. place it in a modern setting, only modernize it, meaning I will try to make the narration a little more attractive to modern tastes and flesh out many passages that the anonymous author – clearly a hack – skimmed over just to get through the job. But I will leave the setting in the German Renaissance and try to emphasize some of the conflicts of the period that had so much influence on the way our society has evolved. Plus, it's a great opportunity to write all kinds of fire-and-brimstone stuff about going to hell and staying away from the Devil.

Oh, one more thing:

I don’t know how this book goes. Sure, I know more or less how it ends, but I've never read it all the way through, so as I go along, there may be one or two surprises I'm not prepared for.

Here is chapter 1:


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