From MHS:Pablo Contursi@4:900/@TEMP to All on Mon Feb 23 07:12:00 1998
De: Pablo Contursi 4:900/264.0
Fecha:05 Feb 98 01:13:00
Part 2 of 3...
weft of time: the Cretan masterpiece of Dedalus, the fanciful hedge mazes of the European aristocracy, the twisting letters of illuminated calligraphy seen in both the Scriptures and the Qu'ran -- even the religious discussions of Uqbar, the topic of his first book, are likened to mazes. Haslam expertly displays his particular genius in the way he relates the nature of physical labyrinths to other, more metaphysical ideas, such as religion, philosophy,
the then emerging field of psychology.
One of the more remarkable commentaries on this work is by the Serbo-Croatian Milorad Pavic, who claimed that Haslam's interest in mazes stemmed from his studies of his wife's growing insanity and its manifestation in her surreal artwork. He (rather callously) makes the claim that Haslam refused to have his wife treated by a professional, as her deliriums were far too interesting to his work. If he did indeed use his wife as such a dark muse, a theory also supported by Dr. Fetter, it would most likely explain her vitriol towards him after his death in 1914. Before she entered a London asylum, she burned most
his papers, which -- in a tragic loss to the literary world -- included the fully completed manuscript of his first work of fiction, known to have been titled The Maze in the Rose.
Vindication of Eternity
Jaromir Hladik (1927)
One of this century's most exhausting, complex, and rewarding works, Hladik's Vindication has been called everything from a "parlor game" to a "masterpiece unsurpassed in the world of philosophy." While the subject remains constant -- an exploration of eternity and infinity -- the style is quite radical,
from short fictional stories to complex essays, from haiku poetry to metaphorical dramas in which mathematical formulae take on character roles and debate each other. (In one well-known scene which takes place in the future, the ghost of Pierre Menard debates with Zeno over the progress of the Achilles and the tortoise; meanwhile Lewis Carroll's Alice slips by and picks their pockets!) The book is today considered less controversial, and many authors have claimed it as a source of tremendous inspiration, from Italo Calvino to Douglas Hofstadter, who recently mentioned it in an interview in Wired Magazine. It has just gone into a new paperback printing from Vintage, where
has found a new audience among the young "digerati" culture, and rumor has it that Knopf will add it to their "Everyman's Library" new line of 20th century classics. (Supposedly they have secured Hofstadter to write the introduction.)
Les problems d'un probleme
Pierre Menard (Paris 1917)
A witty and engaging work, this book takes up in chronological order the various solutions of the famous paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. Two editions of this work have appeared, and the second edition contains revisions of the chapters dedicated to Russell and Descartes. Unfortunately, it has not yet been translated into English.
The Garden of Forking Paths
Written by the governor of Yunnan, this work is largely considered to be next to Finnegans Wake in inscrutability. Ts'ui Pen retired from rulership to write a book and construct a labyrinth; and for thirteen years he labored on that task. Upon his death, all his relatives found were the myriad pages to an almost incomprehensible manuscript -- no real book, and certainly no physical labyrinth. Saved from the fire by a Buddhist monk, the pages were organized into some sort of form and published, much to the shame of Ts'ui Pen's family. Virtually ignored in China, the work was finally revised, corrected, and restored to its intended form by the English Sinologist Stephen Albert, who began a translation. To him goes the credit for the discovery of the book's strange form: the book is the labyrinth. It is a non-linear work in which anything that can happen, does -- each possible plot outcome is pursued, multiplying into a seemingly infinite chaos. In this way, the book represents Ts'ui Pen's view of time: and endless series of possibilities that spread
web through all of eternity.
The restored and translated version had to wait several decades after Albert's death to finally find a publisher: the book was finally published in 1955 by a small company in New York. Financed by a Dublin philanthropist, the editions were quite beautiful: three volumes, each of 500 rose-colored pages, bound in black leather with golden Chinese calligraphy on the front; illustrated throughout with color plates, they bore a dedication to Stephen Albert and a forward by Joseph Campbell. Unfortunately The Garden of Forking Paths has
been published again, making the surviving volumes quite rare and expensive.
would like to make this observation: In 1985 the American composer Stephen Albert, a direct descendent of the Sinologist of the same name, wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning symphony based on Finnegans Wake. It seems that it runs in the family!)
The God of the Labyrinth
Herbert Quain (1933)
Quain's first book, this novel tells the story of an assassination and its subsequent solution by a detective -- the twist occurs in that the reader is made aware that the solution is incorrect, inviting a second reading of the work with the reader acting as detective and finding the correct solution. As are all Quain's works, it is currently available through Vintage paperbacks. Although he has never cited Quain as an influence, this novel makes a brief guest appearance in the writings of Philip K. Dick. In The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, (Pantheon, 1995) which contains some of his published
including a few chapters for a proposed sequel to his masterpiece The Man in the High Castle, there is a mention of the novel. In Chapter Three, Herr
Goebbels is seen casually finishing The God of the Labyrinth, which he considers an amusing little story -- and ironically enough, takes it at face value. Subtle, but then after all, it's Philip K. Dick.
Herbert Quain (1936)
An interesting novel, this book is told in reverse order with several
paths that invite a set of alternate readings, each possible storyline unfolding around a different narrative style that changes the whole temper of the book; for instance one reading makes it a novel with a blatant anti-communist theme, and another reading reverses this and gives it the characteristics of a piece communist rhetoric; and still another makes it out to be a non-political fantasy novel.
This work, long ignored, has been experiencing a recent upsurge in popularity after an article in Wired Magazine appeared, citing it as an early example of Hypertextual fiction. It also made an appearance on a bookshelf in the movie Slackers. Reprinted by Penguin books in 1994, the novel has recently been converted to hypertext format by Libyrinth scholar Allen B. Ruch, and is available on the Web at: http://www.microserve.com/~thequail/quain/aprilmarch
The Secret Mirror
Herbert Quain (1937)
A comedy in two acts, this play has often been (unjustly) reduced to a "Freudian comedy." In reality, it is a complex work in which the second act parallels the extensive and romantic first act, using more down-to-earth characters with related names, finally revealing to the audience that the
act is in the imagination of the writer of the second; a fantasia on his mundane and frustrating life. Unfortunately it is rarely performed; however it was adapted to comic book format by DC's "Vertigo" line in 1994. (Adapted by Grant Morrison and running three issues in "Prestige" format.)
Herbert Quain (1939)
A strange work, this book consists of eight stories. Each one starts out with what at first appears to be a good plot, but soon founders -- deliberately frustrated by the author. Quain reputedly penned the stories to serve as a treasure trove of ideas for other writers, and Borges himself admitted that he took the idea for his story "The Circular Ruins" from Quain's third story,
Rose of Yesterday." More recently, the English science fiction writer Michael Moorcock has indicated that his award winning "Behold the Man" was inspired by the sixth story from Quain's book, "Ecce Homo Fantasia," in which an obsessed painter named Klaus Glauber imagines himself as Christ.
Kristus och Judas
Nils Runeberg (Lund 1904)
Published in Lund by Nils Runeberg, the most outstanding member of the
Evangelical Union, this short book contains the ideas that would later flower as a fully developed heretical thesis in his second book. Dedicated to De Quincey, the book explores the relationship between Judas and Christ in a series of dialogues between famous religious figures, from St. Paul to
Dem hemlige Fralsaren
Nils Runeberg (1909)
His second and last book, this complicated work is considered his masterpiece. Written over a feverish period of five years of increasing insomnia, it is essentially an expanded -- and more heretical -- version of his ideas as put forth in Kristus och Judas. Published in Stockholm in a limited run of two thousand red-leather copies, it was immediately either refuted or utterly ignored. The basic heresy of the book, thought out in meticulous detail, is that Judas is truly the Son of God, the ultimate sacrifice that purchased our redemption. The book is more commonly read in its German translation, Der heimliche Heiland, executed in 1912 by Emil Schering.
Runeberg never lived to see the translation; he died several weeks before it was published.
Confessions of a Thug
Meadows Taylor (1839)
This famous novel has been reprinted and translated into several languages,
none are said to contain the power of the original English. Written by Taylor when he was in service of the Nizam of Hyderabad, the novel is a harrowing journey into the world of the Thuggee and the cult of Kali, as told by a protagonist who is "confessing" his life to Taylor, who appears in the book as himself. So startling and realistic are his descriptions, that many people
in England thought that the novel was nonfiction, and feared that Taylor had been actually murdered! (Which was not entirely an unreasonable assumption -- the author's death is ingeniously inferred at the end through the clever use
"editor's notes" appended to an "unfinished document.") The book has been widely recognized as the inspiration for a dozen poems, pulp novels, and movies. (George Lucas loaned it to Steven Spielberg after the first "Indiana Jones" movie, obviously providing material for the second.)
An Examination of the Philosophy of Robert Fludd
Dr. Marcel Yarmolinsky (1921)
One of Dr. Yarmolinsky's earliest works, this small book foreshadows his later writing style quite nicely. While not as detailed as his later works, his distinctive voice shines through the text, illuminating the often
(and always obscure) philosophies of Fludd with a lucid and reverent light.
History of the Sect of the Hasidim
Dr. Marcel Yarmolinsky (1931)
Another one of Dr. Yarmolinsky's comprehensive and illuminating works, this large book traces the development of the Hasidim from their origins to the present day. Well illustrated, the book has been hailed the "definitive work" on the Hasidim from the moment of its publication.
A Vindication of the Cabala
Dr. Marcel Yarmolinsky (1938)
A simple and well-written book that explores the Cabala from within a
of modern Judaism, this work has rightfully earned its place on the bookshelf of most Qabalists. Dr. Yarmolinsky (responsible for an excellent translation
the Sepher Yezirah as well) writes with a clear and lucid style, bringing to his subject a sense of religious authority unmatched by Regardie, Fortune, or Mathers. It is copiously illustrated, although the recent reprint as a Samuel