Imaginary Lives (Solar Nocturnal 3)
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Marcel Schwob (1867 1905) was one of the key symbolist writers, standing in French literature alongside such names as Stéphane Mallarmé, Octave Mirbeau, André Gide, Léon Bloy, Jules Renard, Rémy de Gourmont, and Alfred Jarry. His best-known works are Double Heart (1891), The King In The Gold Mask (1892), and Imaginary Lives (1896). Imaginary Lives contains twenty-two mythopoeic literary portraits of figures from ancient history, art history, and the history of crime and punishment. From demi-gods, sorcerers, incendiaries, wantons and philosophers of the ancient world, to the "poet of hate" Cecco Angiolieri and the painter Paolo Uccello, through to the pirates William Kidd and Major Stede-Bonnet, and finally Burke and Hare, the serial killers; Schwob presents a vivid array of characters who display all that is macabre, deviant and magnificently terrifying in human beings and in life. In Imaginary Lives, Schwob has created a "secret" masterpiece that joins other biographical glossaries such as Jorge Luis Borges' A Universal History Of Infamy and Alfonso Reyes' Real And Imagined Portraits in the pantheon of classic speculative fiction, of which Schwob's book is the dark progenitor. Livid with decadent imagery, Imaginary Lives resonates loudly today with its themes of temporality, myth, violence and sexuality, and stands as a major work of the fin-de-siÃ¨cle. Solar Nocturnal presents classic literature and art by key forerunners of modernism.
their skins – tales and stories passed from mouth to mouth by blacks and Syrians and innkeepers and guardians who carried out the crucifixions. Absorbed in these vivid contrasts which his free life allowed him to examine, he began, when about thirty, to write the story of those errant slaves and debauchees he knew. In the luxurious society of the city he recognized their morals, though transformed, and he found their ideas and their language among the polite conversations at high ceremonies.
out of the past. Blissfully they followed Dolcino, murmuring: “Father, father, father!” The monks of Parma finally drove him out of the city. Margherita, a girl of noble family, ran down the road after him, joining him on his march to Plaisance. He caught up a sack marked with the red cross and threw it over her and took her with him. Swineherds and drovers saw them sleeping in the fields. Many left their flocks to follow. Captive women whom the men of Cremona had cruelly mutilated by cutting
where he paused perforce in pious genuflection. And that night his lubricity was drowned in the river. The evil spirits who threw him in did not return to rescue him, but when the monks hauled his body out of the water the following day he opened his eyes after a time, revived by the grace of Mary. “Ah, what a choice remedy is such devotion!” breathed canon Nicolas Loyseleur. “How venerable, Coppequesne, and how discreet. Surely from this day you will renounce your Anastasia!” When the Bishop
Ratsey listens. That’s not a common thing and you can tell it in the towns.” “But it will cost us money,” ventured the two Jeffs timidly. “Money!” exclaimed Gamaliel. “Who speaks to me of money? I am king here as Elizabeth is queen in the city, and I’ll pay you royally. Forty shillings for you.” Trembling, the actors came down from their wagon. “Please your majesty,” asked Bird, “what would you have us play?” With his eyes on Gabriel Spencer, Gamaliel Ratsey reflected. “Faith,” he said at
and he rested. From that point he regarded the swarming immensity of the universe: all the stones, all the plants, the trees, the animals and the men; with their colours, their passions, their instruments and the histories of these many things, their births, their desires, their deaths. In the exact centre of all that inevitable and necessary death he saw clearly the death of his beautiful African and he wept. Tears, he knew, came from the action of certain small glands under the eyelids,