Archive for November 10th, 2016

Supernatural Horror in Literature: IX – The Weird Tradition in the British Isles (1/2)

Recent British literature, besides including the three or four greatest fantaisistes of the present age, has been gratifyingly fertile in the element of the weird. Rudyard Kipling has often approached it; and has, despite the omnipresent mannerisms, handled it with indubitable mastery in such tales as “The Phantom ’Rickshaw”, “The Finest Story in the World ”, “The Recrudescence of Imray”, and “The Mark of the Beast”. This latter is of particular poignancy; the pictures of the naked leper-priest who mewed like an otter, of the spots which appeared on the chest of the man that priest cursed, of the growing carnivorousness of the victim and of the fear which horses began to display toward him, and of the eventually half-accomplished transformation of that victim into a leopard, being things which no reader is ever likely to forget. The final defeat of the malignant sorcery does not impair the force of the tale or the validity of its mystery.

Lafcadio Hearn, strange, wandering, and exotic, departs still farther from the realm of the real; and with the supreme artistry of a sensitive poet weaves phantasies impossible to an author of the solid roast-beef type. His Fantastics, written in America, contains some of the most impressive ghoulishness in all literature; whilst his Kwaidan, written in Japan, crystallises with matchless skill and delicacy the eerie lore and whispered legends of that richly colourful nation. Still more of Hearn’s weird wizardry of language is shewn in some of his translations from the French, especially from Gautier and Flaubert. His version of the latter’s Temptation of St. Anthony is a classic of fevered and riotous imagery clad in the magic of singing words.

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