The Adventures of Aldo Morosini
by Juliette Benzoni 1994 - 2016

The Hunchback of Warsaw

Genesis by Juliette Benzoni in 1996
translated from French by Linda, Webmaster 2020

As I said in this very place some time ago, the development of a book often stretches out in my home over several years before it comes to light. Probably because between the moment of emotion from which the first idea is born and the realization, comes the documentation, always very long and sometimes, it must be admitted, other ideas that seem more pressing. I explained then that the starting point of a novel could be a landscape, a moment in History, a legend, a portrait, a painting, a castle. Now I could add the enigmas of History and the fascination of precious stones.

AN IDEA FOR TELEVISION

Some fifteen years ago, one of my friends, a great actor, full of talent and very famous but whose name I won't mention, suggested to me the desire to write a story for television - preferably in several episodes - in which he could be the hero. He had only two wishes: modern times and, if possible, Venice. I admit it: the Twentieth century didn't tempt me very much, my preferences turned more towards the Middle Ages in France or elsewhere.

But this great attraction of my future hero for modernism was easily explained: although he was a sportsman, he did not want to frequent those late ages where only horses were known as a means of transport, showing a clear preference for the automobile, the plane and the comfort that followed. Having then no idea, and therefore no argument to put forward, I agreed with his suggestion, all the more willingly as with Venice he offered my imagination a beautiful compensation...

The Pectoral of Moses


Therefore, thinking that the spirit would flow better around St. Mark's Square, I went to seek inspiration in the incomparable decor of the Serenissima. And I found it at the Accademia dell'Arte, in front of a painting by Titian entitled The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple of Jerusalem. It shows the High Priest in a golden tunic of the fabulous, legendary pectoral, which God Himself, in the Book of Exodus, tells Moses what it should be:

You shall make the breastplate of the Judgment into a work of art. It shall be square and double; its length shall be a yoke, its width shall be a yoke, and you shall garnish it with four rows of stones. In the first row a sardine, a topaz and an emerald, in the second row a carbuncle, a sapphire and a chalcedony, in the third row an opal, an agate and an amethyst, and in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper . And the stones according to the names of the children of Israel shall be twelve. They shall be for the Twelve Tribes..."

From what I have been able to read in various books, it would seem that Moses' pectoral had to suffer from time and men and that Solomon, in building the Temple, restored it and furnished it again with gems brought by the caravans of the Queen of Sheba. We might as well say it right away, we do not know what became of this fantastic jewel more than likely stolen by the Roman legions at the time of the sacking of Jerusalem. The stones were scattered, but some authors believe that several of them adorned royal crowns.

Personally, I think that it still exists somewhere well hidden, buried perhaps and why not in Israel since it was the very symbol of the Twelve Tribes? Anyway, I had my idea and it would be the quest for four stones that I chose among the most beautiful: sapphire, diamond, opal, and carbuncle that I decided to replace by a ruby in order to have a jewel of greater value.

As for the legend that Israel would regain land and sovereignty when the pectoral and its twelve stones return, I have delved so deeply into my subject that I am not sure if I have read it somewhere or if it has appeared in my imagination. Indeed, although I am a Christian - or more likely because I am a Christian ! - I have always felt curiosity and respect for the great Jewish traditions, their esotericism and, of course, the Kabbalah.

Why the project fell apart...

Back in Paris I wrote almost without breathlessly a thirty-page synopsis that I submitted to Claude BARMA.

Unfortunately, this great television man died and soon after the project fell through. With the idea of making a book out of it, I salvaged it but, curiously enough and for the first time in my life, I couldn't make it. On reflection I came to think that I wasn't ready, that the story wasn't ripe. Too focused on the small screen. And I moved on while continuing, for fun, to work more or less on it in my spare time, which is not often.

And then, one fine day, I realized that I had a very complete documentation, both on the countries where I wanted to place the novel and on the historical path of the four stones I wanted to highlight, but, naturally, there were gaps, holes that had to be filled in the most logical, credible way, and in the best possible way in line with the events of the European history.
I was then finishing Les Treize Vents without really knowing whether I would follow them up or not. In the meantime, I proposed Le Boiteux de Varsovie to my publisher.

Like the Tremaine saga, it will be a tetralogy. Four volumes whose respective titles have already been chosen are The Blue Star, which I am pleased to present today, The Rose of York, Sissi's Opal and The Ruby of the Inquisitor (n.b. - which ultimately bears the name of The Ruby of Joan the Madwoman). It is indeed a completely European novel. The Blue Star begins in Venice, continues in Warsaw and then in Paris. The second book, The Rose, which could also have been called The Bold Diamond, is set in Scotland, London, Kent and finally Venice. The Opal, of course, will be set in Austria, Bavaria...and Venice. Finally, the Ruby will go from Spain to Prague via Switzerland, Venice of course with a return to Poland. It may even be that my hero will even go to the United States ...
 


My hero, you're discovering it now: Aldo Morosini, a Venetian prince ruined in World War I who became an antique dealer to guard his family palace. An expert in historical jewels and stones, he is the perfect choice to embark on the dangerous adventure that Simon Aranov, the hunchback from Warsaw, offers him... Women, of course, there are many of them. Seductive for most of them but also dangerous, pitiful, enigmatic or crystal clear, between which the prince-antique dealer will have to make his choice one day. I would add that each of the four stones corresponds to a creature out of the ordinary.

I don't want to tell you more, my reader friends, so as not to spoil a pleasure that I wanted with all my might. You are going to read what is at the same time a historical novel, a detective story and a love story which I hope will seduce you but also retain you.

Juliette BENZONI
 



An exclusive and illustrated feature in the Edition of France Loisirs 1996


 
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