Robert Schofield, pictured, has released his third book
Photo: LaLa La Photo
Stories and culture and who they belong to are the focus of the latest novel by award-winning Luxembourg author Robert Schofield.
“The Treasury of Tales”, published this week by Black Fountain Press in English, is the third book by the British-born author, projecting readers into a welcome historical escape through its multi-layered tale.
The story follows brothers Wilhelm and Jacob, who qualify as lawyers during the Napoleonic expansion, “just in time for their country and laws to be abolished. They were experts in something that no longer existed,” Schofield explains.
While Napoleon’s armies loot treasures from the lands they conquer, the brothers visit a town on the banks of the Moselle on a scholarly mission. There the younger brother is side-tracked when he meets a storyteller, and embarks on a treasure hunt to track down a collection of tales.
The parallels with the real-life story of Grimm Brothers is not accidental, though Schofield stresses the novel is “pseudo-historical”. He says the inspiration struck around six years ago during a “boozy weekend on the Moselle”. The bicentenary of the publication of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales and the Battle of Waterloo, marking the end of the Napoleonic era, helped provide a historical setting.
“This question struck me: who owns stories? The Grimm brothers were collecting stories at a time when it wasn’t clear which language would be prevalent in the future […] going from oral to written [storytelling] at a time where everything was up for grabs,” says Schofield.
While historically set, the themes of shifting borders and selective cultures are just as pertinent in Europe today with Brexit and other geopolitical tensions.
"The Treasury of Tales" is the third book to be published this year by English-language publishing house Black Fountain Press. Photo: LaLa La Photo
“It’s that sort of movable cultural feast that’s reflected in Brexit. But I can’t claim it’s a Brexit critique,” the author says.
Schofield’s first novel, “The Fig Tree and the Mulberry”, won second prize in the 2010 national literary contest. “The Hoogen Stoogen Tulip”, a children’s picture book illustrated by Carlo Schmitz, was shortlisted in the 2013 book prize.
Schofield has also won a number of competitions for short stories including this year’s LEAPA contest.
He is currently working on his next novel, a mystery thriller about “how people’s identity is linked with their own personal story.”