Us, Gods by Bernard Werber / review

Us, Gods cover, 2004, Bulgarian ed. (Ние, боговете), Colibri

Literally translated as ‘Us, Gods’, Nous Les Dieux is the first novel of a trilogy, in which the main character arrives on a strange island inhabited by all kinds of mythological creatures, where he would learn the hard task of being a deity under the guidance of the Olympian gods and goddesses.

The whole idea for the series came to be through the question “Well if you were a god, what would you have done?” In the books the focus shifts from what we perceive of the gods to the divine point of view, thus revealing a new understanding “of our historic past, of the possible future, of the struggles of our kind, and of the struggles of the gods.”

Apart from the existential part of it, I decided to pay special attention to the descriptions of the “mentor gods”. They were portrayed in a very specific way, and apart from the similarity of their clothes and the vague outline of their physical appearance, they are left to the imagination. All apart from Aphrodite… With the noticeably detailed portrayal Werber brings us to the idea that, ultimately, love, as well as beauty, is different for everyone. How many faces does the goddess really have? How many faces does God?

Bernard Werber, The Mystery of the Gods, 2007, Bulgarian ed. (Загадката на боговете), Colibri
The Breath of the Gods, 2005, Bulgarian ed. (Дъхът на боговете), Colibri

note: This book is quite important for the point I’m trying to raise in my dissertation. The questions of how we view the gods and what the gods really mean to us, and how that differs from how they were interpreted in the Renaissance and ancient times are, to an extent, explored within this book. The author’s unlikely choice of characters, famous historical figures as well as celebrities, who are being taught how to be gods, makes us question our definition of a god – can therefore anyone become a god, and if so, then why and how?

I am really looking forward to reading the second novel (Le Souffle des Dieux/ The Breath of the Gods), and then I’ll possibly try and get the third one when I go to Bulgaria in the summer. It is so unfortunate that Bernard Werber’s books haven’t been officially translated and published in English (neither in the UK nor the USA, which I find quite curious) because I can’t use any of the text directly as a quote unless I translate it myself.

On a separate note – I would actually love to create a few paintings inspired by the trilogy. Drawing up a new version of something because I don’t like how it looks takes me back. I used to do it all the time with characters from different animations. I must say that I am really not impressed with the images for multiple reasons. Perhaps as art and design in Bulgaria have only recently been reborn (and growing stronger and more highly appreciated than ever for the past ten years) and things like dreadfully assembled book covers weren’t really something to consider much and were being endlessly excused and made acceptable by the constant repetition of popular sayings, namely, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, sometimes an incredible book needs an incredible cover.


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