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Toms assembles seven stories spanning the whole of Gautier’s career into a unified work that captures the essence of his adventurous life and subtle art From the erotic awakening of “The Adolescent” through “The Poet” a piercing recollection of the mad genius Gérard de Nerval the great friend of Gautier’s youth My Fantoms celebrates the senses and illuminates the strange disguises of the spirit while taki. I had read other books by Theophile Gautier but nothing prepared me for this superb collection of fantasy horror stories entitled My Fantoms translated by the biographer Richard Holmes To the extent that it was Holmes s contribution that made the difference I think I d like to see him do translationsThe only thing that threw me for a loop was that Holmes changed the titles of the seven stories from in some cases their much better known original titles It is not until the Bibliographical Note at the very end of My Fantoms that Holmes gives us the original titles For the sake of reference here they areThe Adolescent Omphale Histoire RococoThe Priest originally La Morte amoureuseThe Painter originally Onuphrius Wphly ou Les Vexations fantastiues d un admirateur d HoffmanThe Opium Smoker originally La Pipe d opiumThe Actor originally Deux Acteurs pour un r leThe Tourist originally Arria Marcella Souvenir de Pomp iThe Poet originally G rard de NervalThe last story does not resemble a story at all Rather it seems like a commemorative essay on Gautier s dear departed best friend G rard de Nerval who had hanged himself from a lamppost some years before Then as one reads on the tribute is full of details that Gautier could not possibly have known and which strain the reader s credibility By far the best stories are The Priest and The Tourist It is in the latter story in which the ruins of Pompeii come back to life just so that the hero Octavian could live a love affair with one of the victims of Mount Vesuvius some 1800 years before It is in that story that Gautier s most famous uote can be foundNothing in fact actually dies everything goes on existing always No power on earth can obliterate that which has once had being Every act every word every form every thought falls into the universal ocean of things and produces a circle on its surface that goes on enlarging beyond the furthest bounds of eternityIf you ever find yourself reading the journals of the Goncourt brothers who knew Gautier well you would find in him a somewhat bizarre but appealing figure one that I hope to know better after reading of his work The Forgotten Memoir of John Knox unified work that captures the essence of his adventurous life and subtle art From the erotic awakening of “The Adolescent” through “The Poet” a piercing recollection of the mad genius Gérard de Nerval the great friend of Gautier’s youth My Fantoms celebrates the senses and illuminates the strange disguises of the spirit while taki. I had read other books by Theophile Gautier but nothing prepared me for this superb collection of fantasy horror stories entitled My Fantoms translated by the biographer Richard Holmes To the extent that it was Holmes s contribution that made the difference I think I d like to see him do translationsThe only thing that threw me for a loop was that Holmes changed the titles of the seven stories from in some cases their much better known original titles It is not The Illusionists until the Bibliographical Note at the very end of My Fantoms that Holmes gives Planet of the Bugs us the original titles For the sake of reference here they areThe Adolescent Omphale Histoire RococoThe Priest originally La Morte amoureuseThe Painter originally Onuphrius Wphly ou Les Vexations fantastiues d Fishes of the Open Ocean un admirateur d HoffmanThe Opium Smoker originally La Pipe d opiumThe Actor originally Deux Acteurs pour Out of Bounds (Boundaries, un r leThe Tourist originally Arria Marcella Souvenir de Pomp iThe Poet originally G rard de NervalThe last story does not resemble a story at all Rather it seems like a commemorative essay on Gautier s dear departed best friend G rard de Nerval who had hanged himself from a lamppost some years before Then as one reads on the tribute is full of details that Gautier could not possibly have known and which strain the reader s credibility By far the best stories are The Priest and The Tourist It is in the latter story in which the ruins of Pompeii come back to life just so that the hero Octavian could live a love affair with one of the victims of Mount Vesuvius some 1800 years before It is in that story that Gautier s most famous Grass, Sky, Song uote can be foundNothing in fact actually dies everything goes on existing always No power on earth can obliterate that which has once had being Every act every word every form every thought falls into the Otter Chaos! (Otter Chaos universal ocean of things and produces a circle on its surface that goes on enlarging beyond the furthest bounds of eternityIf you ever find yourself reading the journals of the Goncourt brothers who knew Gautier well you would find in him a somewhat bizarre but appealing figure one that I hope to know better after reading of his work

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My Fantoms

Romantic provocateur flamboyant bohemian precocious novelist perfect poet not to mention an inexhaustible journalist critic and man about town Théophile Gautier is one of the major figures and great characters of French literature In My Fantoms Richard Holmes the celebrated biographer of Shelley and Coleridge has found a brilliantly effective new way to bring this great but too little known writer into English My Fan. Th ophile Gautier 1811 1872 one of the giants of 19th century French literature author of novels short stories essays plays and poetry was also a journalist who wrote reviews on literature theater dance and art especially art since in his younger years was himself a painter a background that served him well as his writing is visually stunning This fine collection of seven Gautier tales includes Omphale The Adolescent Clairmonde The Priest and G rard de Nerval The Poet however for the purpose of this review and in order to share a taste of Gautier I will focus on my favorite The Opium SmokerThe story begins with the narrator paying a call to the home of his friend one Alphonse Karr who happens to be smoking a pipe of opium Thinking nothing of the practice the narrator accepts the pipe from Karr and in turn tales several puffs inhaling the smoke into his lungs After his brief relaxed visit with Karr he goes home for dinner then to the theater so he can write his obligatory newspaper review and finally returns for a well deserved sleepHe has some sleep but the fantastic happens and our narrator relates the details of his vivid dream He s back at Karr s apartment Karr is on his bed smoking his opium pipe and all is similar to his afternoon visit but for one exception a decided lack of sunlight Repeating the seuence of events as if a mirror the narrator smokes his opium and lies down to feel the effects We read I was half immersed in a heap of cushions and lazily stretched back my head to watch the blue smoke rings rise swirling through the air and dissolve after a moment or two into a diffused haze of cotton wool By degrees my gaze shifted upwards to the ebony black ceiling with its design of golden arabesues As I stared up at it with that ecstatic intensity that precedes visionary experience I had the impression that the ceiling was now blue a deep inky blue like a strip torn out of the night sky This graphic passage exemplifies Gautier s painterly backgroundHe notes the ceiling s change of color to his friend Karr remarks such is the very nature of a ceiling so very much like a woman sheer caprice wanting to change all the time The narrator remains only half convinced by this line of reasoning and with a tincture of unease continues to closely observe the ceiling As if in response to his scrutiny the ceiling turns a deeper blue and stars began to appear stars having delicate golden threads stretching down filling the room with light while in the meantime the entire house had become as clear and as transparent as glassSlightly unsettled by such mystical transformations the narrator wonders what his childhood friend Esuiros the Magician would have to say about this instant shapeshifting No sooner does he have this reflection then to his stupefaction Esuiros is standing before him Wow now that s magic He asks Karr how Esuiros entered the room since the door is closed to which Karr explains magicians always walk through closed doors The narrator takes such a well formulated statement to be an obvious example of sound logicAt this point Esuiros eye become enormous round and glowing and his body dissolves and turns into swirls of sparkling light winding around the narrator s body with a progressively tighter grip In this restricted state the narrator sees whiffs of rising white smoke taking humanlike form and hears a voice whisper in his ear that they are spirits He also sees for the first time a beautiful young barefoot girl sitting up in the corner of the ceiling who tells those rising white smoke spirits that she does not want to join them but would rather live for another six monthsThe young beauty explains to the narrator that if he goes into town and gives her a kiss on the lips of her dead body she will live for six months and live for him alone Upon hearing her promise without the slightest hesitation the narrator sets off in a carriage pulled by two magical black horses During his travels he relates We sped across a dark and dismal plain There was a low leaded sky and an endless procession of small spindly trees flying away on both sides of the road in the opposite direction to the coach for all the world like a routed army of broomsticks Nothing could have been sinister than the huge brooding greyness of that sky scored by the black silhouettes of those skeletal flying trees Sidebar this entire coach seuence has much in common with a similar opium induced coach ride in Sdegh Hedyat s The Blind OwlThe opium dream continues related in vintage Th ophile Gautier vibrant language And this tale is but one of seven There is also an informative introduction by Richard Holmes who did an excellent job translating from the French Lastly this New York Review Book edition has a striking detail of Th odore Chass riau s Two Sisters on the cover If you are a romantic at heart this book is for you

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Ng readers on a tour of modernity at its most mysterious ”What ever would the Devil find to do in Paris” Gautier wonders “He would meet people just as diabolical as he and find himself taken for some naïve provincial”Tapestries statues and corpses come to life; young men dream their way into ruin; and Gautier keeps his faith in the power of imagination “No one is truly dead until they are no longer loved”. It s funny because after reading descriptions of Gautier in the Goncourt journals and other books these are exactly the kind of short stories I thought he might write Kind of a Gallic Poe if you substituted Poe s high Gothic style with a sort of otherworldly eroticism Very uniue and there were some beautiful passages such as this description of The Painter at workThe blood began to flow beneath the flesh tones the outlines grew sharp the forms filled out the light values were established against the dark and half the canvas was already alive The eyes were particularly successful The curve of the eyebrows was faultlessly indicated and melted softly into the temples in a velvety transposition of blue The shading beneath the eyelashes fell upon the white brilliance of the cornea with a marvelous muting effect the gaze was firmly placed and the painting of the iris and pupil left nothing to be desired The only thing missing was the tiny diamond of light that spangle of sunshine which painters call the sight spot


10 thoughts on “My Fantoms

  1. says:

    Théophile Gautier 1811 1872 one of the giants of 19th century French literature author of novels short stories essays plays and poetry was also a journalist who wrote reviews on literature theater dance and art especially art sinc

  2. says:

    In my contrarian days I was a subscribing member of the Committee for Scientific Investigation into Claims of t

  3. says:

    45 starsOn n'est veritablement morte ue uand on n'est plus aimée My Fantoms is a ghostly provocative selection of seven of Théophile Gautier's short stories translated and compiled by Richard Holmes The stories

  4. says:

    The Hippopotamus Theophile Gautier The sturdy Hippopotamus inhabits jungles Javanese where snarl in caverns bottomless un

  5. says:

    this is an absolutely fantastic book of seven supernatural stories by theophile gautier kudos to nyrb for putting this book out along with the dozens of other fabulous titles they have published many of them uite obscurewhil

  6. says:

    I had read other books by Theophile Gautier but nothing prepared me for this superb collection of fantasy horror stories entitled My Fantoms tr

  7. says:

    A middling collection nothing fancy pants but nothing awful either Gautier might put you in mind of Lefanu or other mid century nouveau gothicists or whatever you want to call them Gautier's supernaturality comes from the o

  8. says:

    Wonderful stories Superb writing Phantasmagoria Fantastiue I loved each one of these even the one that is about Nerval his friend and poet than a fictional story I really enjoyed this collection This went on my best reads pile I was sad when I had blazed through the whole thing and it ended Highly recommend to fans of the gothic phantasmagor

  9. says:

    It's funny because after reading descriptions of Gautier in the Goncourt journals and other books these are exactly the kind of short stories I thought he might write Kind of a Gallic Poe if you substituted Poe's high Gothic style with a sort

  10. says:

    charming beautiful ghost stories that absolutely did not speak to me

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