East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Ancient incarnations of death


Like that guy said, never say never.
Or “not often.”
I was talking with a friend, about four weeks ago – she does not like horror fiction, she’d rather read historical fiction, and I said that these days I don’t read or write that much horror anymore.
And as a result, most of what I submitted in the last four weeks, and most of what I read, falls one way or another in the field of horror.

The last two books I read, in fact, have been two excellent horrors, both dealing – in a very different way – with the urban manifestation of ancient spirits of death.
They are both worth checking out, and as I have already mentioned Gemma Files’ Experimental Film, here’s my review of the other, Robert Levy’s Anais Nin and the Grand Guignol.

Just like Experimental Film, Anais Nin and the Grand Guignol chronicles, in the form of a diary, the meeting of the protagonist with an ancient spirit – this time somehow connected to the sea instead of the corn fields – in an urban environment.
And just like in Gemma Files’ book, in Robert Levy’s it is a form of mass entertainment – theatre instead of cinema – that forms the core of the narration, up to the resolution of the supernatural menace.

Levy’s novella-length story is presented as a lost excerpt of Anais Diaries, written in the 1930s. Anais Nin was of course a real person and wrote real diaries, and part of the fun reading this book is how the author manages to mimic and replicate Nin’s writing style.

Lost in Paris, distraught after the departure of June, Henry Miller’s wife and the object of a very cerebral passion, Anais Nin writes, has sex with both Miller and her husband, undergoes psychoanalysis, and one night, during a visit to the Grand Guignol theatre, she falls under the spell of Paula Maxa, the Most Assassinated Woman in the World, star of a morbid, gruesome and sado-masochistic show.
But Paula Maxa has a demon lover of her own, and in pursuing Maxa, Anais will find herself the object of the attention of this supernatural creature.

There is material enough for five novels underneath the fine cover of this book, and the fact that Levy manages to keep the story short, focused, chilling and elegant is part of the allure of this book. And while no previous knowledge of the works of Anais Nin is required to appreciate the story, an acquaintance with the author and her works greatly enhances the experience.

Focusing as it does on the power of narration as magic, Anais Nin and the Grand Guignol is warmer than Gemma Files’ book, and turns out to be more effective on a merely emotional level.
Quite recommended, even if you, like me, don’t read that much horror anymore.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Ancient incarnations of death

  1. I have to get that book! Sounds worth reading!


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