The Wanderer Has Great Setting But Where’s the Story?

Michael Karvajalka  is a disillusioned Finn making a pilgrimage from Rome to the Holy Land in 1527.  Wimpy Michael and his muscle-bound half-brother, Andy, are born victims. Michael’s dog, Rael, is brighter than both of them together.

En route, Michael falls for Guila, a woman with one blue and one brown eye who tells fortunes. She says she’s an innocent virgin, and Michael believes everything he’s told.

When their ship is boarded by Turks,  Michael and Andy convert to Islam to save their necks.

Michael, Andy, and Guila end up as slaves in Algiers.

Michael, who is as honest as he is naive, becomes a yes-man the Grand Vizer Ibraheim of the Ottoman Empire. Andy capitalizes on his wrestling and artillery skills, while Guila, now Michael’s wife, schemes her way into the Seraglio.

All three are caught up in the European conflict that spilled over when the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope struggled for domination.

Mika Waltari muddles through which what could have been a Middle Eastern perspective on Renaissance history unaided by either a plausible plot or plausible characters. He seems to have just recycled his earlier bestseller The Egyptian by advancing the calendar a few centuries.

Don’t bother going after this wanderer.

The Wanderer
by Mika Waltari
Trans. Naomi Walford
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1951
438 ages
My grade: C-

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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