Marcel Schwob - Le Roi au masque d'or

2024-03-30 @Literature

Some twenty plus short stories of diverse theme, genre, epoch and humour, bound by a link: the opaqueness. Masks pervade, literal and figurative: masks of conspirators, murderous brigades, buffoons, cult worshippers, sorceresses and hypocrites of societies both literal and fictional.

Developments characteristic of Edgar Poe, yet not devoid of exotic storytelling of Boccaccio or the Arabian Nights entertainment; likewise anticipating the satires of Cortazar.

Unlike much of the earlier Victorian/Romanticist oeuvre, the vulgar twist is hardly wanting, something I also found all throughout Schwob’s View Imaginaires. Despite the otherwise poetic prose, the tableaux, the tapestries: Schwob holds no scruples in plunging into the vulgar.

Like the symbolist writers I’m used to, Schwob emphasizes heavy descriptive language and dense narration over dialogue. Which ultimately makes this not an easy read. Referencing the dictionary more than ever, I couldn’t imagine reading this in anything but French. Though I gather even most natives would struggle unless seasoned in this type of read.

Some narratives follow the perspective of an in-story protagonist. I shouldn’t say protagonist. Rarely have I found the narrative voice likable; rarely to a sympathy inspiring extent. Others proceed from an even further detached lens of an almost alien species (per the subject meditated in the prologue), oblivious to our finer aspirational subtleties nor customs, describing events as might an astral traveller.

Before proceeding below, bear in mind, nearly all stories can be interpreted allegorically, irrespective of whether I state so explicitly or not.

Questions, comments? Connect.