Tomb Guardians

REVIEWED BY JACQUIE KNOTT


Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press: 2021)


Paul Griffiths is a music journalist, novelist, and librettist. His 2021 novel Mr Beethoven was Longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.


This book is short, a novella length work and all in dialogue with some plates of beautifully reproduced paintings. The paintings are what the book centres around, they are images by the renaissance artist Bernhard Strigel that depict the Tomb Guardians, the ones chosen to guard Christ’s tomb and who we see asleep.


One of the dialogues is between an academic who is becoming increasingly uncertain about the lecture he has prepared about these paintings, and his friend whose questions lead to a discussion about how we know what we know about these men, including why we think there are four of them. Except there are not four of them, there are three. The other dialogue cuts across and weaves between these three guards, who have woken to find that the tomb is empty and who then try to devise some plausible excuse for falling asleep on the job, asking each other why one of them is currently missing. The combination of the two makes you think about imagination and knowledge. It is a small book but is thought-provoking and very beautiful, both because of the language and because Henningham Family Press have produced such a beautiful object.