THE TOMB GUARDIANS by Paul Griffiths
The Tomb Guardians opens with a jarring series of short interjections - a conversation in collage, reminiscent of Samuel Beckett. It’s hard to tell who’s talking. Or about what. It’s the prose equivalent of staring very closely at a painting. As Griffiths pans out, it becomes clear there are two conversations being had - the first between academics, debating the merits, provenance and particulars of Bernhard Strigel’s series of paintings depicting the Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’s tomb. The second involves the soldiers themselves, panicking, trying to cover their arses after waking to find the tomb open and empty.
Both conversation bristle with exasperation, often in deftly overlapping ways. There are moments of mirth and some sly narrative bends, but behind them lies an innovative masterclass in art history that doubles as a rather wry inquiry into storytelling and the relationship between art, religion and those who peddle in both. And while I have little connection to the underlying theology, I can’t help but feel The Tomb Guardians completes my own holy trinity (so to speak) of art novellas, a perfect companion piece to Saint Sebastian’s Abyss by Mark Haber, and Gert Hofmann’s The Parable of the Blind.
The Tomb Guardians by Paul Griffiths
Henningham Family Press, 2021