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Reading Lovecraft – Part 4

The Temple (1920)

During World War I, a German submarine ends up in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, unable to emerge to the surface. A slow-brooding mutiny gradually decimates the crew, leaving the proud captain alone. The vessel drifts along the sea currents, ending up near the submerged ruins of an ancient city.

On one hand the protagonist is a clear caricature of the German superiority complex (the shadow of the Great War was still looming large). Beyond that and despite its length (in comparison to previous works), the Temple is actually well-executed with an accomplished pacing (something remarkable considering the assumed monotony of the oceanic environment) and a wealth of detail. Note also that this is the second one-man Lovecraftian foray into the infinity of the open sea (after Dagon). Finally, the stereotypical personality of the protagonist offers amusing monologues especially near the end. 3/5

Read here.

Facts concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (1920)

As the title suggests, this is the history of the noble line of Jermyns and the events that led the last family heir, Arthur Jermyn, to violently take his own life. Of particular importance are his ancestors’ excursions in Africa.

Gothic to its core, this narration concerns itself with the inter-generational trickling down of an assumed sin. The terrain is dominated by the fear of impurity and inter-species osmosis; this terror is strong enough to make the protagonist take his own life, even though himself as an individual is apparently innocent. This is actually an elaborate (if somewhat puritanical) foray into what personhood means and how it is constituted by a number of blocks, not only of the immediate environment but also going back to the past. The racist undertones aside, this is a solid Gothic read. 2/5

Read here.

Celephais (1920)

The dream excursions of decadent gentleman into a city of wonders, its loss and utter reclamation.

Another Dunsany work, and one of Lovecraft’s finest up to now. The focal point here is the utter alienation of dreamers in the modern world, where the fanciful and the non-practical aspects of myth and imagination are considered anathema. The gradual fall of the protagonist’s noble line echoes the world’s fall into cynicism and pragmatism, though, in contrast to Lovecraft norm, the happy ending shines some glimmers of hope. A good story, with an extremely fulfilling language; just read the sheer power residing in the following description: “The village seemed very old, eaten away at the edge like the moon which had commenced to wane.3/5

Read here.

From Beyond (1920)

The protagonist receives an unexpected invitation from an estranged scientist acquaintance of his. During his visit he realizes that his friend’s research into the fabric of reality and the function of perception has plunged into unfathomable depths, revealing whole new (and utterly dangerous) layers of reality.

One of Lovecraft’s science-horror works, From Beyond is an excursion into some perception and evolution theories. It showcases a fear for the loss of structure and form. Almost cinematic in its unfolding, its descriptions slightly bogged me down (I am not a friend of this particular, ultra-scientific pulp subcategory) but the core idea is solid and the ending highly memorable. 2/5

Read here.

Nyarlathotep (1920)

In a world on the verge of apocalypse, Nyarlathotep rises in Egypt; a charismatic figure that brings terrible nightmares wherever he goes. He creates cults and uses some kind of extravagant cinema to show glimpses of despair. The unnamed narrator gradually dissolves into the multitude of such a cult as Chaos establishes its reign on Earth.

More of a prose poem than a normal story, this very short story basks in an atmosphere of impending doom and cosmic majesty parading through the centuries. 3/5

Read here.

The Picture in the House (1920)

After an introduction to the countryside of New England (which the narrator considers the epitome of the terrible) and its cabins, we see a young man on a scientific trip in the aforementioned setting. He is caught by a storm and takes cover inside a seemingly deserted house. There he discovers an assortment of highly antique items, among them a book describing a cannibal African tribe. Soon the house is revealed to be inhabited by an extremely old-looking man who is very fond of the book.

First mention of Miskatonic and Arkham, while the land of New England is properly introduced to the reader for the first time, throbbing with latent horrors to come. The use of a backwoods dialect of English is, strangely, not especially hard to follow. Of note is also the passing mention of the almost total incompatibility of civilization and individual freedom. The story itself is a study in allusion and the gradual building up of an almost claustrophobic kind of horror, while the memorable ending with the thunderbolt of thunderbolts stands out as a mythological crescendo. 3/5

Read here.

Ex Oblivione (1920-21)

Disappointed by the world and his life, the protagonist seeks refuge in sleep. Visiting dream vistas he finally finds oblivion.

A short Dunsanian prose poem centered around the craving for non-existence. Uncommonly nihilistic for this particular category of Lovecraft’s works, it utterly failed to impress me. 1/5

Read here.

Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here.

07 Aug 2020


Tags: horror   lovecraft
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