by Roger Zelazny

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

first appeared in —
A Rhapsody in Amber, 1981

collected in —
Unicorn Variations
Last Exit to Babylon:
  The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Vol. 4

November 2009

Saint Walpurga's Night

"Walpurgisnacht" is a very short but thoughtful story by Roger Zelazny. Really too short to discuss without revealing all; but I will share some of the cross-currents that the story managed to bring together in my mind.

Goethe's two wonderful sections in Faust, "Walpurgis Night" and "Classical Walpurgis Night", take pride of place. An essential cross-layer is Arthur C. Clarke's asymptotically futuristic novel, The City and the Stars. And we may detect a hint of the flavor that Joss Whedon later developed in his Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Andrew Marvel also suggests themes, for instance:

The Grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Andrew Marvell
"To his Coy Mistress"
The Complete Poems

Quite a confluence in a tiny package!

So is "Walpurgisnacht" fantasy, or science fiction? Well, that would be telling — and Zelazny doesn't. Go ahead and read this little story; I'll bet you spend more time thinking about it afterwards than you did reading it.

Sunny and summer. He walked the sweeping cobbled path beside the fringe of shrubbery, map in one hand, wreath in the other, passing from rest aisle to funerary glade. Grassy mounds with embedded bronze plaques lay along the way; beds of flowers, pale and bright, alternated with gazebos, low stone walls, fake Grecian ruins, stately trees. Occasionally he paused to check a plate, consult the map. ...


© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
translated by Walter Arndt


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