The burning eyes

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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The burning eyes

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Muokkaaja: elokuu 11, 2007, 5:40 pm

Went through collected short stories by Théophile Gautier during the week and came across an interesting one called Jettatura. It's a little early in the 19th century for decadence but one of the thematics of the story is one that we find later also in masterpieces such as Monsieur de Phocas and earlier stuff by Charles Robert Maturin (Melmoth) followed by Balzac (Melmoth réconcilié, suivi de "Jésus-Christ en Flandres") : the power of these devilish, burning eyes -- the abysses of the dark power that makes young women perish and the bravest among men kneel and fear.

Any other suggested reading on this matter?

elokuu 11, 2007, 11:15 am

Jettatura is a good one - puublished as "The Jinx" in English, through the Hesperus Press. An amusing novella of the evil eye - particularly in the manner in which the unlucky fellow cures himself. Didn't Villiers have have a similar story - Clair Lenoir or something? It seems the fascination with "the gaze" well precedes the wall-eyed philosopher of Nausea.

3DavidX Ensimmäinen viesti
elokuu 11, 2007, 12:15 pm

The hesperus edition of "The Jinx" is wonderful. Dedalus Books has printed a nice edition of two very Hoffmanesque stories by Gautier, "Spirite and Coffee Pot". Other Gautier titles are available from Wildside Press, a company that scans out of print old editions and prints them to order. They are a little pricey, but you can obtain many rare gems from them. Delivery may take a while, but it's well worth the wait.
I have come by two such treasures by Gautier from Wildside. First, "One of Cleopatras Nights", a collection of six wonderful stories begining with the title piece, an exotic femme fatale story. Second, a charming novel called "Captain Fracasse".

Muokkaaja: elokuu 11, 2007, 5:38 pm

DavidX, could you please tell me which other short qtories feature alongside "Cleopatra"? In mine (in French, standard edition) I have the "Coffee Pot", "Arria Marcela", "The Jinx", "La Morte Amoureuse", "Avatar" and several others. "Spirite" was republished a little while ago in the beautiful "petite collection Ombres" but I do not have it as of today.

Ben, yes, it reminds me of the Contes Cruels too -- Never read Claire Lenoir, but I was thinking of those like "Duke of Portland" ( I seem to remember there's an issue with the guy's face, smallpox or something) or "Le convive des dernières fêtes".

Speaking of Villiers, I have been struggling for now 3 days to get a copy of his collected short stories i.e. "Contes Cruels" + "Nouveaux contes cruels" + "L'amour suprême" -- and ALL decent bookshops seem to be closed during August. Is "Please call back after September 1st" an answer when you would sacrifice 20 Celtic virgins to get that book?

elokuu 12, 2007, 3:56 pm

Hmm - I guess it will be ages then until I see the Lorrain titles I'm importing. It is difficult to find translations of Villiers' books - though, a few years back, some of those nouveaux contes were translated and published in two volumes: The Scaffold And Other Cruel Tales and The Vampire Soul And Other Sardonic Tales (as was his novel, The Future Eve. The original collection, translated by Robert Baldick ages ago is still available through the Oxford press, in the UK... I think, but hard to come by in the US.

Good luck on your quest, though. I don't know what is more tedious, waiting or virgins.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 12, 2007, 4:57 pm

Speaking of Gautier and tales of louche unease, for Englsih readers I would highly recommend The Dedalus Book of French Horror which includes a short by Gautier (Mlle. Dafiné) and by others not often translated: Charles Nodier, Leon Bloy, Petrus Borel, Richepin, Gautier's son-in-law, Catulle Mendes, etc.

And - though not as satisfying as Villiers, to me at least, the fiction of Maurice Level falls into the conte cruel category. You can download them freely from the web, and, as I've recently discovered, they have been sloppily reprinted in for sale in the original English translation done by Berenger Drillien (I compared the reissues to the originals - which do not contain the repeated and often crucial typos littered throughout the Blackmask reprints. I am tempted to believe the awful editing is their means of enforcing their ludicrous claims to copyright: "see your Honor, this edition renders 'fate' as 'face' - just like ours does." ).

I am grateful that Level's books have been at long last rescued from oblivion, but very disappointed as to the shoddiness of the job. The illustrations they have chosen for the covers are Mahlon Blaine's - though he is not credited. The back cover of Those Who Return, rather than giving a synopsis of the contents or a particle of biographical information, wrongly asserts: "one of Lovecraft's favorite books." Lovecraft scarcely mentions Level in Supernatural Horror in Literature and says nothing at all about the novel.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 13, 2007, 1:45 am

The stories in the Wildside Press edition, translated by Lafcadio Hearn, are:

One of Cleopatras Nights
Arria Marcella
The Mummy's Foot
King Candaules

ISBN: 1-880448-59-9

Muokkaaja: elokuu 13, 2007, 10:49 am

I ordered The Scaffold and Other Cruel Tales, The Vampire Soul and Other Sardonic Tales, and Those Who Return today. Thankyou
Unfortunately the Future Eve and The Dedalus Book of French Horror are out of stock right now. I put them on my wish list. I found a used paperback of the oxford Future Eve for 52 bucks online! I'll keep looking.
Thankyou for allowing me into the group. Unfortunately I cannot read french. I hope to have an opportunity to go back to school and study french someday.
As a teenager I was obsessed with Oscar Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Grey. This led me to J.K. Huysmans Against the Grain and La Bas, as well as Baudelaire's Les Fluers de Mal, Lord Henry's poisonous yellow book.
I've been in love with french novels and poetry ever since, in translation. Your library is a candy store. I'm in awe.
I loved Monsieur de Phocas and I am searching for a copy of Diary of an Ether Drinker. Have any of Jean Lorrains other works been translated into english? I am particularly interested in finding a translation of Le Vice Errant.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 13, 2007, 11:37 am

David - by all means welcome and thank you for contributing. The French Book of horror is best hunted on e-bay and As far as Lorrain goes, I think Phocas is the only thing out there in English, other than Nightmares of an Ether Drinker, which, I'm sure by now, is hideously out of print and those that are for sale are sold at mortally sinful prices.

And, my apologies - Villiers' novel is in print under the title Tomorrow's Eve - and you can grab a copy off of Amazon for $10 (maybe cheaper on ABE).

What I have done is tried to find some of the old anthologies from the turn of the last century: the Julian Hawthorne edited Lock & Key Library Classic Mystery and Detective Stories has a lot of this stuff in English as does the Short Story Classics collection, edited by William Patten. The other good thing is, for the time being at least, that they are not highly priced. Stuart Merrill's wonderful Pastels in Prose and many of Remy de Gourmont's books are available in translation as well - check for them on ABE for the best prices.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 14, 2007, 7:31 pm

Thankyou Ben. Abe is a wonderful resource. I am a bookseller for one of the chains, let's just call it "BOOKMART". I order a lot of books at work with my discount, but I've been using the "Bookmart" website for out of print and ABE has a much better selection. I ordered "Pastels in Prose" for $10 and several Lock and Key Classics and Short Story Classics for a dollar or two each. I have Gourmonts "The Angels of Perversity" and "Tommorrow's Eve" on my see if a new copy is available when I get to work tommorrow list.
I owe you a debt of gratitude for many happy hours of reading ahead.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 15, 2007, 11:16 am

You may just end up owing debts, as I do, spending a good portion of my income on books (hate it when THEY shut the power off)- the best part of which I am doomed to share only a passing acquaintance with!

There is, of course, the benefit of additional insulation. My little study is as quiet as a crypt - no sounds from the street (and only the most strident from the nether-rooms of the house) penetrate the walls.

elokuu 16, 2007, 2:50 pm

Re:7 -- thank you, David.

Re:6 -- Ben, have you had a look at Jean Richepin's Les Débuts de César Borgia? Nice one.

elokuu 17, 2007, 1:04 am

David, the next time you are searching for a book, you may want to check out

It searches the inventories of Amazon, Abe, Alibris, Bookcloseouts, Powells and a number of other online book stores for both new and used copies. It will also pull up copies in Canada as well as other countries (if searching in the appropriate language). It's not perfect or all inclusive, but I've found it to be a pretty useful tool.

elokuu 17, 2007, 7:53 am

Oh yes, marietherese, I have used for a very long time, and not only for books in English. Very useful yool.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 18, 2007, 1:26 am

Thanks for the helpful tip marietherese. I'm going to check it out right now.
I also spend a fair sized chunk of my income on books, Ben. But I'm not complaining. Life without them would be intolerable.

elokuu 18, 2007, 1:25 pm

I also spend a fair sized chunk of my income on books...Life without them would be intolerable

How right you are, David! I do exactly the same.

elokuu 21, 2007, 3:00 pm

Thanks to you, David, I was able to spend just a bit more to fill out my Meyrinck Collection. Almost there!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 9, 2010, 6:08 pm

Back to a "decadent" briefly mentioned earlie rin this thread: Jean Richepin. I received this morning his 344-pages of anti-Christian, Devil-worshipping Les blasphèmes, which concludes with the following prayer, adressed to the coming Christ:

"Loin de la redouter j'appelle ta venue
car j'ai dressé la croix ou pendra ton cadavre
car c'est pour t'y clouer que je t'ouvre mes bras."

His bio mentions that despite being this "bouffeur de curés" he was an atheist. I'll try to dig more about him; in the meantime you can check this "fansite" by a French admirer (

Am also eying a copy of "La Mer" and "Contes de la décadence romaine" to supplement my "Cesar Borgia".

As usual, any information / insight welcome ... and touchstones not working.

huhtikuu 1, 2009, 9:33 am

Aleister Crowley: "The Eyes of Pharaoh"
(published in The Rites of Eleusis)

Dead Pharaoh's eyes from out the tomb
Burned like twin planets ruby-red.
Enswathed, enthroned, the halls of gloom
Echo the agony of the dead.

Silent and stark the Pharaoh sate:
No breath went whispering, hushed or scared.
Only that red incarnate hate
Through pylon after pylon flared.

As in the blood of murdered things
The affrighted augur shaking skries
Earthquake and ruinous fate of kings,
Famine and desperate destinies,

So in the eyes of Pharaoh shone
The hate and loathing that compel
In death each damned minion
Of Set, the accursed lord of Hell.

Yea! in those globes of fire there sate
Some cruel knowledge closely curled
Like serpents in those halls of hate,
Palaces of the Underworld.

But in the hell-glow of those eyes
The ashen skull of Pharaoh shone
White as the moonrays that surprise
The invoking Druse on Lebanon.

Moreover pylon shouldered round
To pylon an unearthly tune,
Like phantom priests that strike and sound
Sinister sistrons at the moon.

And death's insufferable perfume
Beat the black air with golden fans
As Turkis rip a Nubian's womb
With damascened yataghans.

Also the taste of dust long dead
Of ancient queens corrupt and fair
Struck through the temple, subtly sped
By demons dominant of the air.

Last, on the flesh there came a touch
Like sucking mouths and stroking hands
That laid their foul alluring smutch
Even to the blood's mad sarabands.

So did the neophyte that would gaze
Into dead Pharaoh's awful eyes
Start from incalculable amaze
To clutch the initiate's place and prize.

He bore the blistering thought aloft:
It blazed in battle on his plume:
With sage and warrior enfeoffed,
He rushed alone through tower and tomb.

The myriad men, the cohorts armed,
Are shred like husks: the ensanguine brand
Leaps like a flame, a flame encharmed
To fire the pyramid heaven-spanned

Wherein dead Pharaoh sits and stares,
Swathed in the wrappings of the tomb,
With eyes whose horror flits and flares
Like corpse-lights glimmering in the gloom

Till all's a blaze, one roar of flame,
Death universal, locked and linked: -
Aha! one names the awful Name -
The twin red planets are extinct.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 13, 2009, 1:34 pm

From "Fair Ursula", by Ola Hansson, a story of psychic vampirism. Ursula is a rudely sculpted Bavarian maiden crowned with the alluring eyes of the abyss, such as Seaton's aunt possessed (or Andreyev's Lazarus)- two dead stars fixed in sockets, sucking the light and life out of a man's soul. Given the erotic imagery, some modern cynics might say the eyes have teeth as well (and might not be eyes), but that would drain the fun out of it:

"For many years of life two eyes have haunted me. They have haunted me as riddles do which have loomed along the path of one's life and cast their shadow over one's soul as one went by. Such shadows falling on us seem to make the vast darkness of existence around us even darker than before - that all-enveloping darkness that we feel pressing on our shoulders all through life, and which we gather up into ourselves as time passes. Yes, a little darker, a little more impenetrable - a step nearer to the heart of this pregnant brooding mystery, where the quivering darkness bursts into flame and chaos breaks upon the luminous deeps. The eyes have left me sometimes; often they were gone for a long, long time, so that they almost vanished from memory.....

...They shown on me out of the dark - or rather it was as if the impenetrable darkness ... itself had become those eyes, questioning me, drawing me. And at other times too, when i was engrossed in conversation with a friend, or in the hurlyburly of the many-tongued crowd, some times the voices seemed suddenly to grow faint, the world's steady din ceased for a moment, and in the pause nothing existed for me but those two eyes reflecting sheer emptiness; and emptiness more full of meaning than any words or sounds could be, the Great Silence itself...."

syyskuu 13, 2009, 12:43 pm

A character from Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

syyskuu 13, 2009, 1:33 pm

Upon her request, I took my young daughter to see Coraline (I bought her the book before she was born). She had nightmares for weeks and will not utter the name of the film. I gave her the Alice books recently... hopefully they won't invoke flashbacks.

syyskuu 13, 2009, 1:43 pm

I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with everything Gaiman except for Sandman. I borrowed the collected issues on a whim years ago and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and the power of the stories. (Visually there's a lot of variation, as different people contributed the graphics, but overall it's one of the highest-quality comics I've read.)

syyskuu 16, 2009, 10:34 pm

>22 Randy_Hierodule:

How old is your daughter? Ours is four, and while we both loved Coraline, we're figuring on giving her a few more years--even though she just devoured The Witches by Roald Dahl (with unabridged audiobook assistance).

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2009, 11:20 am

Four is a great age - you have several more to go before she tells you that you MUST use only her name when addressing her in public (no "princess", no "sweetie", no "angel", etc. And no more hand-holding: it's embarrassing and only babies do it). Mine is seven and prefers non-fiction stuff about animals, particularly insects and dogs. (Edward Lear, though, was a hit last year) She looks around my library and asks me why I have so many "creepy" books. Hmpf.

syyskuu 19, 2009, 5:26 pm

She looks around my library and asks me why I have so many "creepy" books.

Well lets face it - she has a point ben.

syyskuu 19, 2009, 10:09 pm


She's a lucky little heiress, even if she doesn't know it yet! I only hope she grows up with a different attitude than the daughter of an acquaintance I ran into today (the acquaintance--we always run into each other at book sales)--he has 50 000 (fifty thousand) books, and all she occasionally makes him promise is that he WON'T leave them to her.

syyskuu 21, 2009, 3:55 pm

Periodically, my wife gives me a strange look and asks me what I think my books are worth. Periodically, I hide the kitchen knives.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 22, 2010, 3:12 pm

This thing started off with an interest in what has become a nearly hackneyed idea: "the gaze". I like the idea of the evil eye: the notion that one can be engulfed and transformed - as though vision were an act, potent, predatory - a spiritual assault. Old beliefs that paintings and photographs could annihilate or imprison the soul. But the eye as virtual genitalia? In Ola Hansson's collection of poems in prose, Sensitiva Amorosa, we have perception as ultimate prophylactic. In the last story an aging sensualist, bored and nauseated by physical conquest and contact, finds a stronger, cleaner concentrated version:

"She was gazing before her, alone and unmoving, in silhouette against the water and the air. Then she would slowly turn towards me, and I suddenly felt, purely instinctually, before I saw it, her eyes fasten on me. And without any of all those who were sitting around us knowing anything at all about it, we possessed each other as completely as two human beings can possess one another. For in reality is physical intercourse between a man and a woman something more intimate than a fusion of the essence of two people, when feelings mingle and fertilize each other and thoughts are filtered together and form fruit? ... I had shivers in my blood of painful voluptuousness."

Suffice to say, they meet on the crowded shore regularly for their optic bonk. They never utter a word let alone touch. One miserable Autumn/Swedish day, it comes to the same thing as the "real" thing:

"... now it was over, ... exchanging a single word would have been a sacrilege, and that now each of us had to protect the memory.
The next morning I left.
But there had also been a kind of gratitude in her gaze."

Oh my.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 23, 2010, 5:08 pm

What organ becomes engorged when in a state of sexual excitement? Ask the Mississippi Sheiks (#18):

or Bob Dylan

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 21, 2016, 2:22 pm

The decadents of the late 19th century were obsessed with the gaze of the Antinous and "la femme des yeux glauques" (likely reflecting the epithet of the virgin warrior goddess of the shining mind: "Athena Glaukopis"). The greenish, glowing eyes - like the demoniac gaze of nocturnal birds of prey, or the louche of absinthe (a drink which supposedly brings clarity before stupor).

Well before the French decadence, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer knew the power of green eyes:

joulukuu 29, 2016, 2:08 pm

31. Thank you for the great story and interesting author. I downloaded the full text of Romantic Legends of Spain and am reading it now.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2016, 1:30 pm

Becquer is similar in theme to Hoffmann or Poe. Some of his mysteries are comedic. I am about half way through and so far my favorite story is "The Three Dates" - for the atmosphere of the descriptions of obscure streets, the candle lit interior of cathedrals, and the uncanny architecture of Toledo.

joulukuu 30, 2016, 1:53 pm

I'm wondering how I have missed Becquer all these years. I'll read "The Three Dates" next. We visited Spain years ago and reading the descriptions evokes pleasant memories of obscure streets and candle lit cathedrals. I drank my first absinthe in Spain. The tales are charming and I'm excited to discover a "new" romantic author. Thanks again!

The download is happily free of typos and scanning errors and even includes the illustrations. Handsome book! Do you possess the 1909 edition?

tammikuu 3, 2017, 10:45 am

Yes - I ordered it after reading a review somewhere or another years ago, by Alberto Manguel (or Javier Marias?). He may have had a short story included in a "fantastic fiction" anthology Manguel edited. Glad you like it - and jealous re Spain. Trying to talk a dear friend into going to Andalusia with me. ASAP....

tammikuu 9, 2017, 8:55 pm

Spain will not disappoint you. I wanted to stay there forever and have been dreaming of castles in Spain ever since. It's been fifteen years and I still hope to return there one day.

tammikuu 11, 2017, 11:14 am

"Spain will not disappoint you." Unlike some of the tales in the Becquer collection (unlikely to be included in a contemporary republication). I'd love to get there sooner rather than eventually, and spend a good while.

tammikuu 12, 2017, 3:50 pm

I got sidetracked by Robert Irwin's new book and haven't finished the Becquer collection. The two weeks we spent in Spain was not enough. We long to return there and sooner would be better than later. Alas, later may be too late!

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