The groundbreaking French feminist journal La Fronde, at its height, had a circulation of 100,000 copies a day, and published the work of many of the period's best women writers, one of the greatest talents of that enclave being May Armand Blanc (1874-1904), a somewhat mysterious figure who died prematurely. The current volume gathers together the seventy-six known short stories and prose poems she wrote for the journal, as well as a number of pieces from various other sources. This superb body of work, presented here for the first time in book form, collected and translated by Brian Stableford, might be seen as a travelogue of amour on the road to hell-the heart-rending compositions of an author who, in her careful and meticulous fashion, was the most extreme and the most relentless of the female Symbolists.
May Armand Blanc was one of the truly distinctive and eloquent voices of her unfortunately-brief era, and although she was crying in a wilderness, her song warranted being heard and appreciated then, and still does.
As love stories go, the two offered here, firmly planted in the field of Decadent Symbolism, are certainly among the most intense in literature, written as they are with a variety of creative energy that was unique to their author.
"Delphi Fabrice" (the pseudonym of Gaston-Henri-Adhémar Risselin, 1877-1937), the most adamant of Jean Lorrain's disciples, is credited with authoring over one hundred books. None, however, is more bizarre than The Red Spider, here presented in English for the first time in a virtuoso translation by Brian Stableford. The novel, seeking to out-Decadent the most decadent of its predecessors, features Andhré Mordann, an ether-drinking hero seemingly modelled on Lorrain himself, who, in this "black, black, black tale"-a tale of true horror and madness-traverses the boulevards of decline, hobnobbing with drunken prostitutes and homosexual strong-men, licentious merrymakers and waterfront idlers-and, of course, the dancer gloved in imperial crimson.
Mathilde-Marie-Georgina-Élisabeth de Peyrebrune (1841-1917), who wrote under the pseudonym of "Georges de Peyrebrune," originally published "A Decadent Woman" in 1886, in two parts in the Revue Bleue. The novella, appearing here for the first time in English, in a translation by Brian Stableford, along with three supplementary tales, is one of Peyrebrune's most flamboyant works, presenting a caricature of a high-profile variety of radical feminism, which is demolished by the narrative in such an excessive fashion that it was evidently written tongue-in-cheek, although it is probable that some readers were oblivious to its sarcastic humor.
The three addition tales, "The Fays," a perverse parody of a fairy tale, "The Red Bird," a symbolist account of exotic madness, and "Salome" a spectacular landmark of decadent fantasy, are wonderful examples of Peyrebrune's work when she chose to venture into the avant garde herself.
Georges de Lys's An Idyll in Sodom, originally published in 1889, and here made available in its first English translation, by Brian Stableford, is a significant contribution to a subgenre of French Romantic fiction consisting of lush representations of "moeurs antiques" [ancient mores], a spectacular landmark of which was established with Salammbô by Gustave Flaubert, to whom the current novel is, in fact, dedicated.
"Georges de Lys" was the pseudonym of Georges Fontaine de Bonnerive (1855-1931), an army officer and literary maverick, and An Idyll in Sodom, with its robust approach to plotting and its muscular images of male beauty, illustrates the near-paradoxicality of the idea of a soldierly Decadent fantasy. Notable for its rich descriptions and orgiastic excesses, the book is an extravagant feat of lyrical strength, and its author deserves to be reckoned an important pioneer in the context of the Decadent Movement of the fin-de-siècle.
Double Heart, Marcel Schwob's first collection of short stories, here presented in English for the first time, in an expert translation by Brian Stableford, was originally published in 1891, all of the stories in it having previously appeared in the daily newspaper L'Écho de Paris while the author was part of a "stable" of writers attached to the newspaper, commissioned to supply stories at weekly or fortnightly intervals.
Considered superficially, the project of writing a short story once a fortnight, or even once a week, does not seem particularly daunting, but the reality was that few were able to keep up such a pace while maintaining diversity and originality. During the years when he was penning the stories assembled in Coeur double, Schwob was, however, one of those aristocrats, and the collection is remarkably heterogeneous, both thematically and in terms of its narrative strategies, perhaps more so than any other issued in the nineteenth century, and its variety offers an interesting example of disciplined randomness: not only a relentless quest for difference but a relentless quest for different kinds of difference.
Marcel Schwob was a genius, albeit one only appreciated by a limited cognoscenti, and the present book, with its idiosyncratic brand of black comedy, and its mastery of abbreviation and understatement, is a long overdue addition to the work of this wonderful author available in English.
They're essentially frustrating-things I glimpse out of the corner of my eye, but which disappear as soon as I try to look at them directly. For me, they're always peripheral. Elusive shadows, as you say. They modify the color of whatever they're gliding over, but they don't seem to have any color of their own. As for shape and structure, I only have the vaguest impression . . . Are they shadows? Shadows of something else?
Adrian Stamford, a genetic engineer, is something of a genius in his field, but also has a special ability: to see nuances in color that no one he has ever met can see, which has led him to be hired by Yorkshire industrialist Jason Jarndyke to develop biotech cloths of unique and exquisite color-and maybe even an authentic Golden Fleece.
But Jarndyke's beautiful wife, Angie, has a special ability, and secrets, of her own.
The Elusive Shadows is a tale of the biotech revolution, post-contemporary art, and color as both the ultimate medium of expression and a concealed source of fear.
Originally published in 1888, The Modesty of Sodom, the outrageous text for which Gustave Guiches (1860-1935) is most remembered, is here presented for the first time in English, in a wonderful translation by Brian Stableford. Still as avant-garde as ever, The Modesty of Sodom is one of the purest and most strident exercises of fin-de-siècle Decadent art. As well as employing colorful exotic terms, the author invents and improvises new ones freely, and the story contains several words found nowhere else, whose meanings have to be inferred from context or etymological analogies. It is a straight-faced black comedy, as the majority of exercises in literary decadence are, and its humor is appropriately scathing in its aggressive but amused assault on moral hypocrisy; it is very much a product of its time, but one which, alas, has by no means lost all its relevance in the historical interim.
In conjunction to the principal text, a second, "The Guardian Shades" is also here presented, again, in its first English language translation.
Monsieur de Bougrelon, which originally appeared in serial form in Le Journal between 20 January and 10 May 1897, is here presented in English in a wonderful and fully annotated translation by Brian Stableford. This literary masterpiece, the eponymous “hero” of which is an extraordinary invention, remarkably exotic even by the standards of an era in which the intersection of neo-Naturalist and Symbolist Movements had created an intense interested in abnormal psychologies, is, for all its calculated eccentricity a strangely poignant work. It is not surprising that Monsieur de Bougrelon continued to haunt the author long after he had completed its composition and, as literary revenants go, the character is one of those most likely to make a liminal but profound impression even in today’s world.
In addition to the title novella, the present volume includes nine delightful stories from Lorrain’s later period, which have never before appeared in English.
Written in collaboration in 1922 by the author of Felifax, this five-volume saga (of which this is the last), which chronicles the early years of the 21st century, takes place in a quasi-utopia-like Earth, where, thanks to the genius of master scientist Oronius, humanity has mastered natural forces. However, Oronius' former colleague Otto Hentzen, a mad scientist who has allied himself with the beautiful, deadly Princess Yogha, has sworn revenge on the master scientist. This time, the diabolical Hantzen, who has insidiously taken over another country under the alias of Professor Astaroth, Satan's Rival, plots to unleash a pandemic of madness on the women of the world. It is up to Oronius' faithful and resourceful servants, mechanic Victor Laridon, chambermaid Turlurette, and jack of all trades Julep, to thwart the demoniacal scientist...
This edition includes two more stories by H.-J. Magog.
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