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Adalbert is a forum for me, to post ephemera, photography, poetry, occasional travel notes, and various spontaneous motions. Cover photo: Parsonage where my great-grandfather spent his early years. Taken near Liegnitz, Silesia, ca. 1870.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912)

Over several previous months this year I read William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912). As with M.P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud, of which I wrote in a previous post, The Night Land possesses a framework in which the central story is presented as a series of dreams or visions. The protracted march of the readers's eyes, brain, and hands through the lengthy book (if you read it in analog form, as I did) mimics the vastness of the desolate, cryptic landscapes, as the hero voyages across a future sun-less earth (someone once made a similar parallel with War and Peace). No matter how many times I read many of the sentences, I had difficulty grasping their meaning. "But of you I ask kind understanding, and to call me not a thing of conceit because that I did understand; for truly I knew my faults, even so well as you, that do know all of my going" (p. 280).  Is there a clearer way to phrase this? Repetitions in language and incident abound. The quote, which I have referenced before, from Dr. Johnson, about Paradise Lost, also applies to Hodgson's work: "None ever wished it longer than it is."

The Night Land is at the same time a stunning and brooding evocation of a moribund planet. Certain descriptions of the monsters and forces who haunt the Night Land, the hypnotic repetition of words such as "Monstruwacans," the suggestiveness of the journey "Down the mighty slope," the strange implications of multiple lives lived simultaneously, the Ballard-like ruin of a flying machine, all demonstrate Hodgson's curious genius.


Background photo by me: Yellowstone Park, 1975.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds intriguing, but a work one needs to have the time to fully focus on.

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  2. Lisa, I have been busy this year, so it took me a while to get through the book. Hodgson is getting more recognition lately. Sadly his life was one of the many cut short by WWI.

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