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The White People And Other Weird Stories (2011)

The White People and Other Weird Stories (2011)
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4.03 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0143105590 (ISBN13: 9780143105596)
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English
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penguin classics
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The White People And Other Weird Stor...
The White People And Other Weird Stories (2011)

About book: Como ya comentaba en 'El gran dios Pan y otros relatos de terror', el galés Arthur Machen fue una gran influencia para H.P. Lovecraft, llegando a utilizar éste algunos nombres y referencias en obras tan significativas como 'El horror de Dunwich'.Toda la obra de Machen está rodeada de ese halo mágico y misterioso de los profundos bosques y montañas galesas, donde es posible soñar con la gente pequeña, esas malévolas criaturas pre-célticas que se mantienen ocultas a nuestra presencia. Leyendas, misticismo, folklore, fantasía, terror, todo ello se encuentra en la obra de Machen, sin duda uno de los escritores que más han influenciado a artistas de todo tipo: el ya mencionado Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Ramsey Campbell, Alan Moore, Borges, etc.La presente novela no destaca precisamente por el terror, siendo la fantasía la predominante en todos los relatos. Al mismo tiempo, cabe destacar que Machen utiliza la relación entre la mente y el paisaje en algunos de sus relatos, mostrándonos que la mente puede verse influenciada en ocasiones por ciertos parajes, donde es posible llegar a ver lo que no está ahí, al menos aparentemente.Estos son los diez relatos contenidos en la recopilación:- El pueblo blanco (The White People). (*****) Una discusión sobre el Mal, lleva a Ambrose, un viejo filósofo, a prestarle cierto libro a Cotgrave, una especie de diario en el que una chica narra sus experiencias con un mundo fantástico. Está considerado por muchos como el relato de terror mejor escrito de todos los tiempos, a mi entender algo exagerado, pero sin duda es un cuento indispensable.- Un chico listo (The Bright Boy). (***) A Joseph Last, un joven que estudió en Oxford, le proponen un trabajo de preceptor, que consiste en dar clases al chico de los Marsh. Pero ciertos hechos le hacen pensar que algo no va del todo bien en esta familia.- Los arqueros (The Bowmen). (****) Cuenta la leyenda que durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, miles de alemanes cayeron inexplicablemente en batalla cuando luchaban contra un pequeño grupo de soldados británicos.- El gran retorno (The Great Return). (****) En Llantrisant parece que ha sucedido algo extraño y maravilloso, algo relacionado con unas luces. Y hacia allá que se va el protagonista para averiguar la verdad de estos hechos.- La pirámide resplandeciente (The Shining Pyramid). (****) En la casa de Vaugham están sucediendo cosas inexplicables. Es por ello que invita a su amigo Dyson, para ver si entre ambos pueden desentrañar el misterio. Resulta que todas las mañanas, junta a un muro de su propiedad pegado a un bosque, alguien deja unas puntas de flechas prehistóricas en el suelo formando extraños dibujos.- Los niños felices (The Happy Children). (**) Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, el protagonista, periodista de profesión, para en Banwick. Es aquí donde escucha, y ve por él mismo, que los niños se andan descontrolados.- De las profundidades de la tierra (Out of the Earth). (***) Abundando en la historias del extraño y mal comportamiento de los niños en ciertos balnearios de Gales, el protagonista, un trasunto de Machen, quiere esclarecer de una vez estos hechos, basados en rumores.- La habitación acogedora (The Cosy Room). (**) Un hombre, un asesino, cree encontrarse a salvo en su escondite, en su habitación.- N. (N.). (****) Tres hombres, Perrot, Arnold y Harliss, se reúnen a menudo para recordar los viejos tiempos y costumbres en Londres, cuando surge una discusión en torno a la existencia de Canon’s Park, en la zona de Stoke Newington. Harliss vivió allí durante un tiempo e insiste en no haber oído hablar en su vida de dicho lugar. ¿Es posible que lo que unos ven de una manera, otros lo vean de forma totalmente diferente?- Los niños de la charca (The Children of the Pool). (***) El protagonista está de vacaciones en casa de unos amigos, y en dicho lugar se encuentra con un conocido. Al poco tiempo, Roberts, este amigo, actúa de forma temerosa. Tal vez tenga algo que ver la fétida charca que encontraron en uno se sus paseos.

Arthur Machens the White People allows us a peek into an otherworld that at once revolts and captivates. The greater part of the story is told from the perspective of a young girl as she records her exploration of a forbidden landscape. She has come into esoteric knowledge that allows her to enter into an enchanted dimension that is both full of wonder and dread. The world that she traverses as it is described so simply and powerfully by Machen held me spellbound, and stayed with me long after I had finished. Many people will read into his landscape and attach Freudian meanings, but I dismiss such fantasies, they are less real then the ancient folklores that fired Machens imagination. I also grew up in a countryside that is ancient and littered with grotesque and beautiful rock formations. As a child I remember the spiritual thrill of exploring sites that were instilled with a sacred atmosphere. This feeling could have been born from my own imagination but perhaps it was also an intuitive knowledge that there is more to the ancient places of this earth then just the beauty of rock and vegetation worn and grown in strange forms. I still feel a sense of foreboding when I approach certain places of significance in the Australian bush. The landscape of the White People however is not a place that I would dare enter. It is not sacred it is profane, and yet still provokes wonder. Arthur Machen puts forward the idea that true evil is not just going against the moral law as laid down in sacred scriptures, he puts forward the idea that real evil is when one manages to turn what is natural inside out, to do magic that defiles the natural way of things, that undoes part of Gods creation. The seemingly innocent girl gains access to another spiritual plane through forbidden means, although her actions may appear harmless and what she finds may seem quite alluring to many in this day and age, were the occult has captured peoples imagination. None the less Machen shows it for what it really is; a great evil. In many ways this goes along with the Bible whereby occultism is one of many kinds of actions or mental processes that separates a person from God, and thus considered a sin, Machens characters however takes it one step further in describing it as the greatest form of evil. Well from my point of view there is no doubt that her actions were an abomination.Finally a note on the White People; They are fairy like beings that are rarely mentioned and are not to be viewed with the present day debased idea of fairies being small people with wings and magic wands. They are so much of the ‘other’ that it is easy to see why some people in the old days referred to their kind as ‘the strangers.’
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Reviews
Alan Rader
The title story, "The White People," sets up a distinction between sin and malicious action. Sin, so the argument runs, does not actually entail what western civilization commonly believes. An act of murder, even cold blooded murder carried out with malicious intent, is not in and of itself a sin. Though we rightfully imprison murderers, their actions are bad not due to any inherent wickedness but because the deeds disrupt and forestall the normal function of society in general. Morality then is seen to arise not out of some divinely handed down series of "though-shalt-nots" but out of the need for society, in a pragmatic manner, to go about its business without having to deal with the nuisance of malicious action. Actual sin, on the other hand, has nothing to do with malicious action but with sorcery and magic, with attempting to usurp the power and privilege reserved for angels and other higher beings. Sin is then seen to arise out of an action akin to the fall of Adam and Eve, who attempted to access a power (knowledge of good and evil) that transcended what God had appointed for them. A truly sinful act repeats the mistake of the fall.This definitional notion is borne out in the talk of two characters, Ambrose, a reclusive old hermit, and Cotgrave, an everyman who one day meets this mysterious man and talks to him about good and evil.At the end of their discussion, Ambrose loans Cotgrave an old green handwritten book, the former property of a 16 year old girl who practiced magic and witchcraft, which she learned from a former caretaker, who herself had learned mysteries from her grandmother. The green book is not interesting due to the content itself but because of what the content says about the attitude towards self sufficient women who run against the common grain of society. Witches are always solitary figures, unmarried women, who somehow get by in society without relying on a man to help them along. What an evil sort of behavior that is, so the beliefs of older peoples went -- a woman living alone, not attending church, not doing what men believed she ought to do (namely, submit to the authority of a male lover). These solitary and self-reliant figures are then portrayed as always engaging in the sorts of activities that would most frighten us, witchcraft, magic, evil action and the rest. What this means is that the story contains a subtext that relies on a concept of good woman vs bad woman. The story interests me because it exposes this subtext, which is just a belief that a good woman marries a man, has children, and otherwise engages in activities appropriate to that station, whereas a bad woman does not marry, does not have children (or if she does, they are not good children but are the product of some hideous union between woman and devil, for these women are often seen in horror tales that have them birthing demon children, as in HP Lovecraft's "Dunwich Horror" or Machen's "The Great God Pan."All of this aside, it's an interesting little tale and a good diversion from the common humdrum of daily life, work, and the rest. Enjoy.
David
I read two thirds of this intriguing collection of stories before returning it to the book shelf. There's no doubt about it: Arthur Machen was an intriguing author, with a lot of very strange ideas that definitely earn the title of 'weird stories'.I think one reason why I didn't stick it out to the end was that, despite the huge amount of variation between the stories (length, context, style) they all seemed to have very similar thematic undertones, i.e. that there is a world beyond this one occupied by (insert strange beings here) that one can uncover by (insert strange act here).There are some very, very odd moments - including one particularly long paragraph in The White People that I can only really describe as 'deranged'. At points, this story actually became unreadable, and I found myself skim-reading a lot of it.If you like HP Lovecraft (and I've really been sold on him) then you'll really enjoy this. The collection is beautifully presented, and - certainly for the most part - is a real joy to read.
James
Early into this I can immediately recognize the thematic influence Machen had on Lovecraft; that humanity dwells on the threshold to a broader world inhabited by beings who are malevolent or indifferent to our well-being at best. Machen however is the superior craftsman. He is able to describe details of place and time, both rural and urban, that establish not only atmosphere, but contribute towards an understanding of the sensibilities of the characters in the stories. His dialogue and depth of characterization exceed those of Lovecraft as well. The fermenting hysteria that characterizations Lovecraft's stories is absent.
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