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April 29, 2013

Random Post: Cthulhu's Dad

I recently read Guy de Maupassant's The Horla, because I was looking for French stuff to read. I read it partly because I'd hear that HP Lovecraft was strongly influenced by it.

Having read it-- boy howdy! Most of the elements of the achetypal Lovecraftian story are all present. There's an average man doubting his sanity, an invisible creature that seems to exist just beyond the physical dimensions, dreams of traveling to stars, strange Goats... there's even a mention of (if I have this right) "backwards fishermen," which seems to contain the seed of the "Innsmouth look."

The big things not present are the Work of Art Which Virally Transmits both Forbidden Knowledge and Madness (taken from American writer R.W. McChamber's The King in Yellow) and the High Academic style of writing Lovecraft used to almost convince you he was talking about real stuff.

The English version of the Horla is here. It's pretty short. I don't know if it's scary or not because it's hard to be scared when you're checking the dictionary every third word (as I had to, reading the French).

In addition, because this is now officially Well-Explored Territory, it doesn't seem to have the freshness it might have had in 1887, and so maybe suffers from the Seinfeld is Unfunny syndrome. (That idea is that wickedly original things wind up being so influential, producing so many variations and offspring, that the original winds up looking unoriginal.)

Bit of a weird thing: de Maupassant actually did feel his sanity slipping from him as he got older (and not even that much older!) -- "Many think that the author himself was insane when he wrote this story."

From the page on Guy de Maupassant himself:

In his later years he developed a constant desire for solitude, an obsession for self-preservation, and a fear of death and crazed paranoia of persecution that came from the syphilis he had contracted in his early days. On January 2, 1892, Maupassant tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat and was committed to the celebrated private asylum of Esprit Blanche at Passy, in Paris, where he died on July 6, 1893.

He was 43 when he died.

Wikipedia tells me that Horla is probably a combination of hor, "out," and l, "there," so the term may be intended to say The One Out There, a Lovecraftian sort of name.

Oh: Obviously Lovecraft red some Ambrose Bierce stuff, too.

The Peter Lorre Radio Play: Bottom of this page.

Recommended by Rob Crawford and @nykensington.

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posted by Ace at 05:36 PM

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