Friday, September 11, 2009

Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories by Algernon Blackwood

The weird stories of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) are supernatural in the truest sense. They testify to an awareness that the natural world is greater and more powerful than the puny destiny of man. Blackwood the nature-mystic holds the certitude that there are deeper forces at work in the universe, of which man is ignorant and before which he is helpless. These forces are not malignant per se, but are rather of such immensity of power and so mysterious in their purpose that before them man is but an insignificant microbe. The horror in Blackwood is the realization that modern man is insignificant to the degree that nature hardly deigns to perceive him, or perceives him only as a slight impediment in the fabric of the cosmos. Blackwood writes of a terrifying nature spirit or elemental (“The Wendigo”) that haunts the great northern forests of North America, of the Danube willows which threaten to engulf two stranded campers on a island crumbling in flood (“The Willows“), and of the innate animalistic instincts of the atavistic soul (“Ancient Sorceries”, which loosely inspired the film “Cat People”). Anyone with an interest in tales of the strange and uncanny ought to be acquainted with the stories of Algernon Blackwood.

The Penguin Classics edition of Blackwood contains four fewer stories than the Dover publication misleadingly named The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, but does contain a useful introduction by S.T. Joshi, who has also compiled editions of the works of Lovecraft, Machen, and Lord Dunsany.

1 comment:

  1. An essential author. Somehow I lost my copy of that Dover edition, alas.


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