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Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 7 July, 2018 10:20PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> From all these posts I am beginning to think that
> most of supernatural and fantasy fiction can be
> said to be about madness on a basic level. At
> least in real life, anyone claiming to have had a
> supernatural experience, or rising rapturous
> around elves and dragons, will be considered mad
> by the majority of conventional society, and
> consequently will be ostracized.

Not everything that "can be said" is the truth. If an author does not intend a fantasy to be a depiction of madness, then it does not matter of some critic chooses to see it differently.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 7 July, 2018 10:28PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The teenage boy secretly sealed up in a hidden
> compartment in his mother's house after she
> unexpectedly dies, spying out from behind a
> wallpapered thin screen with peepholes at the
> newly arrived family, making forages to the
> kitchen for food when they are out, and having
> elaborate obsessive fantasies about one of their
> young daughters being his 'princess' - you may
> guess the rest - in Jack Vance's Bad Ronald, does
> not quite seem to be fully normal either.


I have not read "Bad Ronald". I do recall other Vance villains. Their most usual mental defect is a sort of narcissistic moral myopia. But sometimes a character will literally believe himself to be God. I think there may be a number of such, but the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the lost sibling from the end of (IIRC) NIGHT LAMP.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 8 July, 2018 10:10AM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I do recall other
> Vance villains. Their most usual mental defect is
> a sort of narcissistic moral myopia.

Yes, you pinpoint it exactly. Such characters are often given very prominent space in Vance's novels, and we readers have to endure their longwinded egoistic harangues (not seldom dealing with money and fortune, and intended to be amusing). That's what I find most unsympathetic about Vance's work. But on the other hand, I love his fantasy elements (those moments they do occur, more in some books than in others).

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2018 12:42PM
Knygatin Wrote:
> Such characters are
> often given very prominent space in Vance's
> novels, and we readers have to endure their
> longwinded egoistic harangues (not seldom dealing
> with money and fortune, and intended to be
> amusing). That's what I find most unsympathetic
> about Vance's work.

You just reminded me that there was another villain in NIGHT LAMP, one who gave a grand speech elucidating his philosophy, before committing a senseless mass murder. I'm sure I've seen others in this vein, but other than NIGHT LAMP, most of my Vance reading was long ago.

I don't recall sharing your negative reaction to such episodes. Vance's outlook can come across as a bit amoral, and I found it reassuring that he is willing to draw the line somewhere, by mocking the nihilistic solipsism of such villains.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10 Jul 18 | 12:44PM by Platypus.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2018 05:43PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I don't recall sharing your negative reaction to
> such episodes. Vance's outlook can come across as
> a bit amoral, and I found it reassuring that he is
> willing to draw the line somewhere, by mocking the
> nihilistic solipsism of such villains.


Yes, well, when their despicable behaviors are sprinkled with a generous dose of fantasy I can bear with it. I especially enjoyed the horrible fate of the villain Attel Malagate by the end of Star King. That is on a comparable level to CAS's sardonic culminations.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2018 06:44PM
"The Adventure of the German Student", by Washington Irving, is arguably a tale of madness. It is a theme of Irving's ghost stories that they all tend to have "rational explanations" of one sort or another, and/or be told by unreliable narrators. And the "rational explanation" that suggests itself here is rather obvious.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Nils (IP Logged)
Date: 17 August, 2018 06:26AM
The story "Der Irre" by the german expressionist writer and poet Georg Heym is - in german literary review, that is - considered to be a masterful piece on the topic. I see that some works of Heym were translated into English while I'm not sure if "Der Irre" were included (must be something like "The madman" or "The lunatic" in case it was translated).

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2018 01:04PM
Thanks a lot. A short story collection (containing "The Madman") by Georg Heym ordered today. Cannot wait to read it. :-)

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Nils (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2018 03:51AM
Nice! I hope you will like it.

I've thought about your request and could give some more hints from my specific perspective on german literature, if you like.

- "Der Trinker" by Hans Fallada. The novel is available as "The Drinker". Fallada is considered a canonical author of social realism ("Neue Sachlichkeit") and was struggling himself his whole life with episodes of psychic disorder, drug addiction and alcoholism. All this he put together on a very high level in "The Drinker" which was written in the early 40's while he was staying in a medical institution ("Trinkerheilanstalt"). Though the novel is not entirely about madness, it is heavily included.

- "Bahnwärter Thiel" by Gerhart Hauptmann. It's available as "Lineman Thiel". In this novella of naturalism, Hauptmann describes the slow drift of Thiel into madness. Issues of duty, class distinction, religion and supression of emotions are covered here. Very good, as far as I can remember it.

- A certain air of madness definatley waves through some works of Franz Kafka. The classic novel "Der Process" (available as "The Trial") and the short story/novella "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis") are both works of an literary excellence which is seldom achieved. In the novel, the protagonist Josef K. is going mad by getting sucked into an intransparent system of executive law. Is gets arrested and he doesn't know why, he is put in the dock without getting told why and so forth. In the novella, young Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and must witness his own transformation into a bug. But is all this real?

- Another classic but rather heavy recommendation would be "Die Blendung" by Elias Canetti, available as "Auto Da Fé". It's about a scientist of sinology who has a certain flaw in his dealings with other people, some kind of social disorder one could say. He drives himself (as well as he is driven) into madness in his flat which is mainly his private library.


Maybe some of this could be of interest for you.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2018 12:38PM
Ok, I have read some of Heym´s stories. Really weird stuff, he makes no bones about describing excrements or likening urine to wine ... "The Lunatic" (Der Irre) is a good story, bizzare, morbid, trying to describe what is going on inside the head of a homicidal maniac.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Nils (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2018 02:57PM
Glad to hear that you like it.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2018 06:21AM
Yes, I like it. Now I have read all the stories. There is another story about madness in the book which is I think way better than "The Lunatic." It is called "Der Dieb" (The Thief) and it´s the best piece of the collection.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Nils (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2018 03:40PM
Sounds good. I've never read this one.

Re: Classic stories about madness
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 5 October, 2018 03:31AM
Last night I read a great story about madness called "The Scarlet Flower" (1883) by Vsevolod Garshin. It takes place in an asylum and the main character is a lunatic who believes the scarlet flowers growing in the asylum garden contain all the evil of the world so he tries to get them and destroy them. A great insight into the mind of a mentally deranged individual.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Oct 18 | 03:32AM by Minicthulhu.

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