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Reading Lovecraft – Part 5

Sweet Ermengarde; or, The Heart of a Country Girl (written under the pseudonym Percy Simple somewhere between 1919 and 1921)

Of sweet Ermengarde, supposedly of 16 years, her gold-bearing family farm, her suitors (both villainous and heroic) and a happy ending.

A comic tale written in the manner of a gross fable as well as parodying extravagant love stories. Interesting and certainly a curiosity, reveals the (much obscured) comic side of Lovecraft. Turns the fairytale and romantic tale tropes on its head. 2/5

Read here.

The Nameless City (1921)

The nameless narrator/explorer finds himself somewhere in Arabia, in the ruins of city so ancient that it vastly predates Babylon. As he proceed, slowly but steadily descending into the depths of the earth, he finds works of unparalleled workmanship and traces of an other-than-human race. Finally he finds the source of the strange wind phenomenon that marks the surface location of the city.

First appearance of Abdul Alhazred and his renowned verse:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange aeons even death may die.

The story is a steady descent without much action, completely devoted to description and glimpses of a distant past; in that it resembles, in a much smaller scale, the Mountains of Madness. I found the story’s flow somewhat tedious in moments. 2/5

Read here.

The Quest of Iranon (1921)

Iranon, a wandering minstrel seemingly graced with eternal youth, seeks the city of his birth, Aira. He is banished from the city of Teloth for his refusal to comply with the locals’ working ethos; however the boy Zuro becomes enchanted by Iranon and becomes his travelling companion. They wander many lands and wonderful cities. In the end Iranon discovers the truth about his origins.

Another Dunsany fable, this touches on concepts as the search for meaning in working, the nature of reward and of course descent and ancestry. Interesting and offering food for thought, but nothing spectacular. 2/5

Read here.

The Moon-Bog (1921)

The protagonist is invited by an old friend of his to the latter’s castle in Ireland, in a region with traces of ancient history. There his friend explains his plans of drying the neighboring marsh which – a decision that has already cost him his old servants and local workers, forcing him to bring hands from the north of the country. As the nights progress the protagonist realises that the land’s memory is great, as is the power to defend itself.

Horror deeply intertwined with history and myth, of the sort that Lovecraft, Howard and Smith excelled. Excellent pacing which slowly unveils the lore, and a good balance between background information and action. Highly memorable scenes (the workers dancing under the moonlight with the swamp spirits, the moon rising in the end), an excellent work. 4/5

Read here.

The Outsider (1921)

A man who has no memory of the day or night sky, having lived all of his existence in a castle inside a forest so thick that it allows no light, decides to make a perilous climb through the only castle tower that seems to breach the treetops. Succeeding, he finds that the upper levels are not what he expected.

It is hard to speak about this little masterpiece without spoiling it. Despite its baroque language (which H.P. himself noticed 10 years after writing it) it is an ode to Poe as well as a well-known trope of horror literature. What makes it stand out is the small part after the climax, where we get a glimpse of true otherness, the discarding of the traces of humanity. 4/5

Read here.

The Other Gods (1921)

A wise man, Barzai, ascends with his assistant, Atal, to the Hatheg-Kla mountain, where the gods of the earth are rumored to gather occasionally. After a toilsome procession, Barzai continues further on alone and meets the gods, and the gods see him. When Atal reaches the meeting point, after the gods have departed, he finds only a titanic etching, carves as if by a huge chisel.

Teeming with lore (It was he [Barzai] who first told the young priest Atal where it is that black cats go at midnight on St. John’s Eve), the story resembles a Dunsanian work in narrative style but goes deep into creating a complete mythological setting and some monumental images of uncanny majesty. At its core lies hubris and the never-satisfied quest for new experiences. 4/5

Read here.

The Music of Erich Zann (1921)

The protagonist, a student, remembers the days when he was living in a building high up in Rue d’Auseil. There he had a neighbor, Erich Zann, a mute old viol player who could be heard each night frantically playing crazed and completely innovative melodies near his window, the only one through which one could see beyond the wall that lied on the street’s summit.

One of Lovecraft’s most well-known stories, the story deserves its fame. It could reveal a bit more (it is uncommonly tight-handed with its secrets) but the weird dreamy French setting along with the motif of the isolated student who comes into contact with the uncanny (which will be seen in utter perfection in Dreams in the Witch-House) provide rich layers of atmosphere and hints of the occult. Erich Zann is the archtypal guardian at the threshold, the one who stands against the oncoming storm. The beautiful depiction of the street with the ancient tall houses which lean backward and forward, occasionally communicating via overhead bridges, stays with one forever. 4/5

Read here.

Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here.

20 Aug 2020

Tags: horror   lovecraft
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