Today’s Classic Crime is a striking, disturbing story by Guy de Maupassant, one of the great masters of the short story form.
In “Little Louise Roque,” the body of a young village girl is found in the woods, violated and murdered. With a cool and disinterested eye, Maupassant describes the reactions, actions, and thought processes of the people affected: the girl’s mother, the postman who discovered the body, the mayor, the magistrate — and the murderer. It’s a dark and unsettling story, but also quite powerful. And memorable, too.
I first encountered this novelette in the Boris Karloff-edited collection, And the Darkness Falls, and it’s stayed with me since that reading. I’m sharing the same translation, from a collection of Maupassant translations credited to “Albert M.C. McMaster, A.E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada, and Others.” The story was first published in December 1885, and later became the title story of Maupassant’s eleventh collection, La petite Roque (1886).
Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827) was a German poet and writer of the Romantic school, best known today for his märchen, a word usually translated as “fairy tales” — generally implied to be for children. In Hauff’s case the description “folkloric tales” might be more appropriate, since some of his stories seem too dark for children’s literature. Perhaps that’s why his name and works are less well known to Anglophone readers today than, say, the work of the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault. This is a shame; the tales I’ve read are delightful, and like the work of Hans Christian Andersen, are as readable–or even more readable–for adults as for children.
Hauff published his Märchen over the period of 1825-1827 as three Märchen-Almanach (yearly keepsake volumes): Die Karawane (The Caravan) (1825), Der Scheik von Alessandria und seine Sklaven (The Sheik of Alexandria and his Slaves) (1826) and Das Wirtshaus im Spessart (The Inn in the Spessart) (1827). Each collection is in the form of a story-cycle, with a framing narrative whose characters tell the individual tales, either to pass the time or to relate a part of their personal history. As you might guess from the titles, the first two collections are Orientalist fantasies patterned after the Arabian Nights. That’s well and good, but I wasn’t really in the mood for it, so instead I read The Inn in the Spessart, a tale of intrigue, impersonation, and highway robbers set in the forest of the Spessart region of Bavaria and Hesse.
A few months back on my Dark Tales Sleuth site, I wrote about The Necromancer; or the Tale of the Black Forest, which was one of the seven “horrid novels” mentioned in Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey. The Necromancer is a 1794 translation of the German gothic novel Der Geisterbanner (1792), by “Lorenz Flammenberg” (Karl Friedrich Kahlert).
In my Dark Tales Sleuth post I wrote about having traced down an even earlier (1793) translation of the first half of Der Geisterbanner, by “T. Dutton.” In the post, I pointed to a convenient (but later — 1825) place to read it.
Now The Ex-Classics Website has posted T. Dutton’s translation, taken from the original publication sources, along with the translator’s original footnotes! So you can read this version of The Necromancer (Part I) as it was originally published.
There’s no real theme to this post; I’m just tying up some loose ends I’d forgotten about. Specifically, a couple of posts to Ephemera that I never boosted here.
First is a translation that I posted last October of a ghost story, of sorts, by Emilia Pardo Bazán. This is an interesting and ambiguous tale: is the protagonist mad, or possessed? It reminds me a little bit of The Horla, and also a little bit of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” See what you think.
Second is a version of the Snow White fairy tale, in verse, by Aleksandr Pushkin, called (in this version) “The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights” (1833). It’s a mix of the traditional Snow White narrative (Aarne-Thompson-Uther tale type 709), with a little bit of “East O’the Sun, West O’the Moon” (Aarne-Thompson-Uther 425 I think? — only in reverse).
Remember my other blog,The Dark Tales Sleuth? That’s where I’m tracking down the sources of the unattributed stories in the 1856 anthology, Evening Tales for the Winter, edited by Henry St. Clair. I’m still working on it!
After wrapping up Volume One, I started on Volume Two with what seemed like a straightforward case, which quickly turned super interesting. I began with what I thought was a plagiarism of one of the seven “horrid novels” from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and found what I think is an alternative (and earlier!) translation of the first section of the German source novel. Pretty cool!
My first translation of the new year! Actually, I did this last year (before Winter Tale season started), but I put it aside for my Christmas ghost stories, and only just finished reviewing and polishing it now. This odd little tale from 1875 is by the relatively obscure Spanish author Pedro Escamilla. I’ve just put it up on my Ephemera blog.
As I’ve written before, I personally find Escamilla a bit uneven. Some of his stories are well-executed but unexceptional treatments of familiar ghost story tropes; others, while supernatural, are not so much spooky and macabre, but more like Catholic fairy tales, full of intercessions by the Virgin Mary, and the like. I don’t actually mind this latter type of story, but I admit they might not have a general broad appeal.
Every so often, though. I find something quirky and unusual from his pen, and I think this one unquestionably falls in that category. So many questions: is the narrator reliable, or not? What exactly is going on? I really liked this one, and I hope you do, too.
Illustration for “Muérete y verás,” from El Periódico para Todos, No. 16, 1875. Illustrator unknown.
This week’s winter tale is a dark folkloric story from Norwegian writer Jonas Lie (1833-1908). “The Earth Draws” comes from Lie’s 1891 collection Trold, which draws heavily on the folk beliefs of the fishermen and other residents of Northern Norway (he published a second collection with the same name the following year). Several of Lie’s short stories, mostly from Trold, were translated to English by Robert Nisbet Bain and published as Weird Tales from Northern Seas (1893)—and that of course is where this translation comes from.
A young shopkeeper’s assistant accidentally stumbles upon the shipping docks (and supplies) of “the underground folk,” invisible beings who live within the mountainside. No, it’s not what you think–he’s an honest young man, and doesn’t steal the goods. But meeting the underground folk has consequences, as he discovers come Christmastime….
The translation only refers to these invisible beings as “the underground folk,” but I’m guessing that they are the huldrefolk (literally, “hidden-folk”), aka tusser, or underjordiske (underground), supernatural beings who live within mountains or under the ground, and who can make themselves visible at will. Female tusser are sometimes said to be beautiful, and sometimes to be hairy, and both traits come into play in this story.
If you like this winter tale (and I think you will), then I also highly recommend all of Tales from Northern Seas. It’s freely available at Project Gutenberg. Enjoy!
A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.
“The Earth Draws” Illustration by Laurence Houseman for Weird Tales from Northern Seas (1893).
Featured image: Detail from Grunnarbeide (Groundwork), Theodor Severin Kittelsen (1907). Source: Wikimedia
First things first: “Adela’s House” is the best haunted house story I’ve ever read. It’s eerie and dark, enigmatic, and just a little bit bloody. Like most great ghost stories, it starts out in a quirky but fundamentally prosaic world and just…goes sideways. Real sideways. I love it, and for this story alone, I’d recommend Things We Lost in the Fire.
But the rest of this collection, by Argentine writer Mariana Enriquez (translated by Megan McDowell) is nothing to ignore, either. I sought her work out after seeing her featured in a BBC special on women ghost story writers, but not all the stories in Things We Lost in the Fire are supernatural. Rather than a “ghost story writer,” I lean towards calling her a “writer of the macabre.” The stories in this collection, supernatural or not, are all uncanny, dark, “weird” in the sense that the VanderMeers use the term, and sometimes outright horror. Whatever you choose to call them, they are compelling and unsettling, and a really great read.
As if I didn’t have enough to do, a new series: The Uncanny in Translation! Regular readers of this blog might have noticed that I have an interest in non-Anglophone weird fiction. In this series, I plan to share interesting works in translation that I come across, which are possibly less well-known to English language readers.
First up: Fantastic Tales (Racconti Fantastici), by nineteeth century Italian author Iginio Ugo Tarchetti (1839 – 1869), translated by Lawrence Venuti. According to the book cover, Tarchetti was “the first Italian writer to experiment with the gothic style,” and is “often compared to Edgar Allan Poe.” He was part of the Scapigliatura movement in Italian literature, a sort of anti-bourgeois, anti-establishment movement influenced by German Romanticism, French bohemians, Baudelaire — and Poe.