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The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies

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No other writer of the fin-de-siEcle period undertook a more elaborate exploration of perversities and abnormalities than Jean Lorrain, and no one else went as far afield in the search for discoveries of that curious kind than he did. Perhaps, given the variety of human behavior, it was not possible for him actually to invent perversities that no one actually practiced, or No other writer of the fin-de-siEcle period undertook a more elaborate exploration of perversities and abnormalities than Jean Lorrain, and no one else went as far afield in the search for discoveries of that curious kind than he did. Perhaps, given the variety of human behavior, it was not possible for him actually to invent perversities that no one actually practiced, or were even tempted to practice, but what is certain is that no one ever examined the anatomy of eroticism, including its wilder extremes, with a greater analytical fervor. In this, the second collection of short stories by Jean Lorrain to be made available in English, exquisitely translated by Brian Stableford, psychological studies of amorous perversity are presented together with mock-folktales, giving further evidence of the amazing inventiveness and imagination of one of the key figures of the Decadent Movement.


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No other writer of the fin-de-siEcle period undertook a more elaborate exploration of perversities and abnormalities than Jean Lorrain, and no one else went as far afield in the search for discoveries of that curious kind than he did. Perhaps, given the variety of human behavior, it was not possible for him actually to invent perversities that no one actually practiced, or No other writer of the fin-de-siEcle period undertook a more elaborate exploration of perversities and abnormalities than Jean Lorrain, and no one else went as far afield in the search for discoveries of that curious kind than he did. Perhaps, given the variety of human behavior, it was not possible for him actually to invent perversities that no one actually practiced, or were even tempted to practice, but what is certain is that no one ever examined the anatomy of eroticism, including its wilder extremes, with a greater analytical fervor. In this, the second collection of short stories by Jean Lorrain to be made available in English, exquisitely translated by Brian Stableford, psychological studies of amorous perversity are presented together with mock-folktales, giving further evidence of the amazing inventiveness and imagination of one of the key figures of the Decadent Movement.

30 review for The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    First and foremost, a big thank you and virtual hug to Anna at Snuggly books, who 1) gave me something to look forward to when she first told me that this was book was going to be published and 2) sent me a copy. It's not often that I read a story that begins with a queen giving birth to a frog, but that definitely happened here in the final story, "The Mandrake." I shouldn't have been surprised -- the one before that, "The Princess Under Glass," had a young girl stuck between life and death flo First and foremost, a big thank you and virtual hug to Anna at Snuggly books, who 1) gave me something to look forward to when she first told me that this was book was going to be published and 2) sent me a copy. It's not often that I read a story that begins with a queen giving birth to a frog, but that definitely happened here in the final story, "The Mandrake." I shouldn't have been surprised -- the one before that, "The Princess Under Glass," had a young girl stuck between life and death floating downriver on a barge, and the one prior to that one, "The Marquise de Spôlete" (a personal favorite in this collection), takes on a rather twisted and (I'm pleased to say) messed-up version of one of Lorrain's favorite subjects, Salome and the head of John the Baptist. And it gets better. I know this will sound kind of dumb, but reading this book is the mental equivalent of walking through a museum of curiosities where you don't know what's going to be coming at you around the next corner but you do know that whatever it is, it's going to be good. And I mean really good. Really, really good. Another thing: anyone familiar with Lorrain's novel Monsieur de Phocas is going to see a number of echoes between the two books, for example, the man who can only truly love the dying, masks, "the gaze," exile/displacement, hypocrisy, narcissism -- the list goes on. As Brian Stableford, the editor and translator of this collection notes re the overlap/fusion of Naturalism and Symbolism in "examining the psychological roots of amorous attraction, and particularly its apparent paradoxes, perversities and abnormalities..." "No other writer of the fin-de-siècle undertook a more elaborate exploration of those apparent paradoxes, perversities and abnormalities than Jean Lorrain, and no one else went as far afield in the search for discoveries of that curious kind than he did." I haven't read too much in the realm of fin-de-siècle literature, but after reading a novel and these short stories by Jean Lorrain, I think I trust Stableford's judgment. While I'm not going to talk about individual stories here because it is such a treat to have discovered them on my own, I will say is that for me, there's not a bad one in the bunch and each one is a separate little work of art on its own. One thing a reader might notice is that there is a clear divide in this volume. While all as a whole reflect Lorrain's fascination with "strange and wayward amour," the "Naturalistic stories": "Sonyeuse," "The Unknown Woman," "The Lover of Consumptives, "The Soul-Drinker" and "Ophelius" have a more contemporary feel; after that, there are the more supernatural tales, the contes, some of which are labeled as "Bohemian tales." To put the last eight in some sort of contemporary perspective, it's sort of like reading Angela Carter's excellent The Bloody Chamber - the subject matter is different, but the characters are there to be examined, their depths to be plumbed. While personally I think everyone should read this book, it's really going to appeal more to readers of dark, strange fiction who don't mind sitting and mulling things over after reading each story. It is definitely a thinking person's book and one to read ever so slowly so you don't miss a single word, a single nuance. I love this author and I especially love this collection of strange yet compelling tales that kept me up night after night (in a good way) reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    Translation and Introduction by Brian Stableford the book contains some of the longer stories written by Jean Lorrain.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patrick.G.P

    Jean Lorrain’s tales are filled with a strange, sad sense of beauty and often revolves around the hopelessly lost, either in love or in life. Strange perversions and dark desires run through his characters in stories that range from gothic horror to fairy-tales, and Lorrain tells it all with beautiful, delicate prose. Stand out tales for me was: Sonyeuse, The Soul-Drinker, The Princess Under Glass and The Mandrake. Enthusiasts of decadent prose and fin de siècle literature should absolutely seek Jean Lorrain’s tales are filled with a strange, sad sense of beauty and often revolves around the hopelessly lost, either in love or in life. Strange perversions and dark desires run through his characters in stories that range from gothic horror to fairy-tales, and Lorrain tells it all with beautiful, delicate prose. Stand out tales for me was: Sonyeuse, The Soul-Drinker, The Princess Under Glass and The Mandrake. Enthusiasts of decadent prose and fin de siècle literature should absolutely seek out this fine collection.

  4. 5 out of 5

    James

    Jean Lorrain seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance these days. When I first started getting seriously obsessed with the 19th-century French Decadent writers (this was back in 2008), I remember bemoaning how, at that time, so much of Lorrain's work remained untranslated into English. Then last year saw Tartarus Books re-releasing Lorrain's classic 1901 novel "Monsieur de Phocas" in a deluxe hardback edition, and this year has seen Snuggly Books releasing two collections of Lorrain's Jean Lorrain seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance these days. When I first started getting seriously obsessed with the 19th-century French Decadent writers (this was back in 2008), I remember bemoaning how, at that time, so much of Lorrain's work remained untranslated into English. Then last year saw Tartarus Books re-releasing Lorrain's classic 1901 novel "Monsieur de Phocas" in a deluxe hardback edition, and this year has seen Snuggly Books releasing two collections of Lorrain's short fiction, both translated by Brian Stableford, the first of these being "Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker" and, more recently, "The Soul-Drinker and other Decadent Fantasies," of which we now concern ourselves. It would be easy to see Lorrain as something of a pallid shadow of Huysmans, a Mini-Me of the Yellow Nineties (like Huysmans, in some ways Lorrain's strange lifestyle is almost more interesting than his fiction: lover of masked balls, a flamboyant homosexual into rough trade, an ether addict, a scabrous journalist, and, of course, his duel with Proust). Yet it many ways the two writers are very different. Although Lorrain wrote a fair number of novels (many of which, as previously mentioned, remain untranslated), he seemed to gravitate towards the short story in particular, a mode of storytelling that Huysmans generally avoided. Lorrain also had an obsession with fairy tales and supernatural horror that tends to make his work distinctive from that of Huysmans (though the latter did dip into horror imagery every now and then). Whereas "Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker" focused more on Lorrain's shorter horror-type stories, this new collection instead presents us with generally longer stories (two of which are practically novellas) and an assortment of shorter fairy tales. The first five tales are essentially stories of obsession, sometimes of a sexual nature. The first one, “Sonyeuse,” could have one of the most Decadent sentences ever written, when Lorrain describes church bells as “…heavy flowers of iron shedding petals of ennui” (This is rivaled only by the third story in the collection, “The Lover of Consumptives,” in which a man is described as having “… a funeral urn in the place of his heart.”). Although Lorrain’s homosexuality was something of a well-known open secret at the time, sadly very few of these stories delve into that sort of subject matter, aside from “Ophelius” (though in “The Legend of the Three Princesses” the narrator does gush over “…the nudity of the beautiful young man” and “…the beautiful naked barbarians,” so make of that what you will). Some of the fairy tales have a sort of Lord Dunsany/Clark Ashton Smith vibe (in the case of the latter, see especially the death-obsessed story “Day’s End.” As an aside, I wonder if Smith was familiar with Lorrain’s work, given his own interest in the French Symbolists). “The Marquise de Spolete” revolves around the Biblical story of Herod and Salome (which seems to be the favored Biblical story of the Decadents in general, regardless of nationality, seeing as how it fascinated everyone from Huysmans to Gustave Moreau to Oscar Wilde). The final two stories, “The Princess Under Glass” and “The Mandrake,” are both very moving tales which makes me think that, in his heart of hearts, Lorrain was secretly a sentimentalist. Granted, not all the stories worked: the title story in particular goes on way too long, has little in the way of a payoff, and is lathered with so much over-the-top angst and ennui that after a short time it almost starts to become comical. But overall, I would say that this book makes a good companion piece to the first Snuggly Lorrain collection.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Seregil of Rhiminee

    Originally published at Risingshadow. Jean Lorrain's The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies is the second collection of short stories to be made available in English. It is an excellent companion collection to Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker and provides readers an opportunity to enjoy more of the author's decadent, depraved and imaginative stories. It's great that Snuggly Books has published The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies, because this kind of short story collections are diff Originally published at Risingshadow. Jean Lorrain's The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies is the second collection of short stories to be made available in English. It is an excellent companion collection to Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker and provides readers an opportunity to enjoy more of the author's decadent, depraved and imaginative stories. It's great that Snuggly Books has published The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies, because this kind of short story collections are difficult to find. I consider this collection to be one of the publishing highlights of the year, because it's something out of the ordinary. It will captivate many readers who want to read something different. When I began to read The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies, it immediately impressed me, because it was filled with various elements ranging from decadence and eroticism to desire and strangeness. It was such an extraordinary reading experience that I found myself being wholly captivated by it. Before I write more about this collection, I'll briefly mention that during the recent years I've developed a deep fondness and craving for this kind of literary fiction. I've become increasingly intrigued by what decadent fiction has to offer for speculative fiction readers, because many stories are brilliantly original, unconventional and strangely erotic with echoes of something forbidden. Some of the stories have supernatural elements that are strongly related to gothic horror and literary strange fiction. The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies contains the following stories: - Sonyeuse - The Unknown Woman - The Lover of Consumptives - The Soul-Drinker - Ophelius - Hylas - Day's End - The Legend of the Three Princesses - A Bohemian Tale - Princess Ottilia - The Marquise de Spolête - The Princess Under Glass - The Mandrake These diverse stories range from literary fiction to supernatural tales and horror fiction, and contain elements of fantasy fiction, horror fiction and literary fiction. Some of the stories are beautifully written fairy tales that have a folktale-like quality to them (these mock-folktales are stunningly inventive and shocking). All of these stories have plenty of literary values that will impress readers. They're fascinatingly beautiful, disturbing and atmospheric, and some of them feature grotesque scenes that are not easily forgotten. They're seeped in lush decadence, symbolism and naturalism, and they reflect the author's fascination with strange amour and emphasise his exploration of various abnormalities and perversities in a brilliant way. Unlike the previous collection (Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker), this collection contains three novella-length stories ('Sonyeuse', 'The Unknown Woman' and 'The Soul-Drinker'). These longer stories offer a fascinating contrast to the shorter stories, because they demonstrate the author's ability to weave fascinating stories and build up atmosphere. I found it fascinating that some of the stories contained the same kind of elements that were portrayed in the author's novel, Monsieur de Phocas. Because I loved Monsieur de Phocas, I was wholly mesmerised by these stories and their atmosphere. Here's a bit more information about the stories and my thoughts about them: Sonyeuse: - A tragic and beautifully told story about the Mordaunts (an English couple) who have moved to the Sonyeuse house. Their young daughter seems to be ill. - The author writes longingly and touchingly about childhood memories and the secrets of the English couple. - The atmosphere in this story reminded me vaguely of the atmosphere in Stefan Grabinski's short story 'On the Hill of Roses'. The Unknown Woman: - An excellent and captivating story featuring a mysterious woman. - This gradually unfolding story has an intriguing atmosphere and a good ending. The Lover of Consumptives: - A story about a man who is fascinated by women who suffer from comsumption. - A memorable and wonderfully twisted decadent story. The Soul-Drinker: - In this story, a man reads journal entries that were written by his friend. The journal entries reveal what has happened to the man and how he feels about a certain woman. - The excerpts from Baudelaire's 'Les Fleurs du mal' and 'Litanies de Satan' add a nice touch of class to the story. Ophelius: - A story about a man whose friend seems to be dying of Ophelius. - The revealing conversation between the protagonist and Lady Viane is excellent. - This story has an intriguing homosexual undercurrent. Hylas: - A fairy tale-like story about Hylas. (As many readers may be aware of, in classical mythology, Hylas was a youth who served as Heracles' companion and lover.) - In my opinion, there was something in this story that slightly reminded me of Lord Dunsany's stories and H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Quest of Iranon', which was published in 1935. Day's End: - In this lush historical story, it is possible to see spellbinding obsession with carnage and death. - This story reminded me a bit of stories written by Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith. The Legend of the Three Princesses: - A beautifully written fairy tale about three princesses - Tharsile, Argine and Blismode - who resemble one another, but have different mothers. - The author writes well about the princesses and how they differ from each other. - Although this story doesn't feature as much homosexuality as 'Ophelius', careful readers will notice echoes of the author's homosexuality in the text. A Bohemian Tale: - In this story, a strange singer, who has established himself in the forest of Ardennes, seems to have bewitched the land and many things have suddenly changed. - A beautifully written and impressive story. Princess Ottilia: - A fairy tale about a mute and deaf princess. - This story has an intriguingly macabre ending. The Marquise de Spolête: - In this story, Simonetta Foscari's deeds are revelead to readers. - This is one of the best stories in this collection, because it's a well written and tragic tale with a memorable ending. The Princess Under Glass: - A story about a delicate and beautiful princess, Bertrade, who has transparent skin. - I love the way the author writes about the princess and what happens to her. - This story has faint echoes of the fairy tale 'Snow White'. The Mandrake: - In this fantastic story, a queen has given birth to a frog. - A fitting final story to this amazing collection. 'Sonyeuse' is an excellent novella-length story. It's a haunting story about childhood memories, because the protagonist reminisces about an English couple and their secretive life in a compellingly gothic way. The beautifully unsettling descriptions about the lady and the little girl enhance the strange atmosphere. 'The Lover of Consumptives' is a decadent and twisted story about a man who loves consumptive women. It's an exploration of the amour of consumptives. The author's descriptions of a frail and ill woman are intriguingly morbid and will intrigue readers who have read Edgar Allan Poe's stories. 'Ophelius' is a story in which readers will be able to see echoes of the author's homosexuality. The author writes fluently about what seems to have happened between Claudius and Ophelius. 'Day's End' and 'The Marquise de Spolête' will surely stick to everyone's mind because of their atmosphere and the author's stunning ability to write lush prose. Once you've read them, you won't be able to forget them (they differ from each other, but they're both amazing and memorable stories). The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies is a veritable feast of decadence, depravity and imagination. The stories fascinatingly reflect the author's decadent way of life. They also demonstrate the overlapping of symbolism and naturalism in a fascinating and fluent way. I think that Jean Lorrain is one of the best authors when it comes to exploring human nature and our hidden and perverse desires. He dares to explore things in a much bolder way than many of his contemporaries. He even surpasses many modern authors in this matter, because only a few authors dare to write about various things in a similarly bold manner. Brian Stableford has done an amazing job at translating the stories from French to English, because the prose is exquisitely beautiful, descriptive and nuanced. The quality of the prose will please everyone who has ever read literary and lyrical prose, because the translator has done his best to maintain the atmosphere and nature of the original stories during the translation process. The translation has been done with great care for atmosphere, details and nuances. The introduction offers plenty of information about Jean Lorrain and his stories to readers. This is good, because in order to fully understand and appreciate these stories readers must know something about the author's life. The footnotes are informative and provide additional information about certain things. Jean Lorrain's fascination with strange love and its various manifestations impressed me. I adore the way he writes about what happens to the characters and how he builds up a strange and unsettling atmosphere. He evokes such powerful and disturbing images in the reader's mind that it is difficult to forget his stories. He uninhibitedly explores abnormalities and perversions and makes his readers marvel at his imagination and literary output. Just like in the previous collection, Jean Lorrain examines sexuality, sensuality and moral corruption (and other similar themes and issues) in a shameless way. His exploration of amour, eroticism and moral issues feels refreshingly invigorating because of his bold and lush writing style. It is amazing how easily he lets his readers sense what the protagonists are going through and what happens to them. When you read these stories, you'll get a distinct feel of an age gone by when life was different and people had different values. This collection will especially appeal to readers who love the darker and stranger side of literary fiction and speculative fiction. Readers of dark fiction and literary strange fiction will be delighted to delve into the decadent and fascinating world of the stories, because Jean Lorrain's stories explore French decadence in a memorable way. I think it's good to emphasise that The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies is not to be read in haste. It's a collection that should be enjoyed one story at a time, because each of the stories is thought-provoking and offers different kind of sensations to readers. If you're familiar with the works of Brendan Connell, you're in for a special treat when you begin to read these stories, because they're just as amazing and intriguing as Connell's stories. I think that readers of Joris-Karl Huysmans, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Angela Carter, Edgar Allan Poe and Lord Dunsany will also appreciate and enjoy these stories. Jean Lorrain's The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies is one of the best and most memorable short story collections of the year. It should not be missed by fans of decadent prose, twisted imagination and weird stories. I highly recommend it to everyone who loves beautifully written literary fiction and speculative fiction. Please, don't be afraid to delve into the mesmerising and ravishing world of this stunning masterpiece, because it contains unique achievements in decadent storytelling. Highly recommended!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Quiver

    This collection of short stories represents two main directions of French, fin-de-siècle fiction. The first five stories study the psychological perversities of love in a Naturalist tradition, brought to us through nested frames of unreliable narrators. Fauras is a tender individual, an elegiac, obsessed with exquisite impressions of sorrow, infatuated with mourning; he wears crepe in his thoughts and has a funeral urn in the place of his heart. Delectably heart-broken, the most angelic of beings This collection of short stories represents two main directions of French, fin-de-siècle fiction. The first five stories study the psychological perversities of love in a Naturalist tradition, brought to us through nested frames of unreliable narrators. Fauras is a tender individual, an elegiac, obsessed with exquisite impressions of sorrow, infatuated with mourning; he wears crepe in his thoughts and has a funeral urn in the place of his heart. Delectably heart-broken, the most angelic of beings, he defoliates the evergreen cypresses of regret eternally, over new amours, a phoenix incessantly reborn! [From The Lover of Consumptives] The other eight stories are contes, or fantastical folktales in the Decadent tradition (Symbolist school) liberally sprinkled with perverse elements and usually ending with a stroke of some artificial deus ex machina. When it was known that the Queen had given birth to a frog there was consternation in the court; the ladies of the palace remained mute, and no one any longer ventured into the high vestibules except with sealed lips and heart-rending gazes that spoke volumes. [From The Mandrake] The language is clogged down with descriptions, seemingly dense, unhelpful, moody, although a few choice sentences do shine. Often I had to work to get at the plot, or even to tease out the psychological finesse in question. But then, I was after the ideas, not so much after the turn of phrase (which would also be a lot more to ask from a translation). In the Introduction, Brian Stableford, who is also the translator, says: Perhaps given the variety of actual human behaviour, it was not possible for him actually to invent perversities that no one actually practice, or were even tempted to practice, but what is certain is that no one ... ever examined the anatomy of eroticism, including its widler extremes, with greater analytical fervour. Having read the book, I'm not sure I agree. Just looking at one generation before Jean Lorrain, there's Barbey d'Aurevilly and his six Diaboliques, which give a more detailed and better written analysis, packaged in a similar frame-within-frame format, together with an additional historical element. That said, I don't regret reading The Soul-Drinker—it gives a memorable grounding in the storytelling structures and topics of the time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gaze Santos

    Decadent is certainly the word to describe the whole endeavour of this book. Which is fitting of a fin-de-siècle writer such as Jean Lorrain. The first couple of stories deal with deviant forms of love. And it is interesting to note that the depictions of them are generally very sympathetic and understanding. One would almost say accepting. Contemporary accounts seem to suggest that Jean Lorrain himself may have been far from straight, which may account for the comprehending bent. Nevertheless, Decadent is certainly the word to describe the whole endeavour of this book. Which is fitting of a fin-de-siècle writer such as Jean Lorrain. The first couple of stories deal with deviant forms of love. And it is interesting to note that the depictions of them are generally very sympathetic and understanding. One would almost say accepting. Contemporary accounts seem to suggest that Jean Lorrain himself may have been far from straight, which may account for the comprehending bent. Nevertheless, the stories contained are supposed to shock and awe, and Lorrain delivers in quite florid terms... The second half of the book is composed of "Contes," modern fairy tales that act as a commentary on values of the time. These stories are no less decadent, with queens giving birth to frogs, and Princesses deserting their kingdoms in the name of infatuation... Anyway, I think you get the idea. These are meant to be fairy tales for adults. A Belle-Epoch version of "Fifty Shades of Gray," but much prettier... Fans of literary deviance should take note, this is a literary water spring of inspiration.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alan Freeman

  9. 5 out of 5

    Woolrich13

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  11. 4 out of 5

    Altichiero

  12. 5 out of 5

    Egaeus Press /

  13. 4 out of 5

    rubbergauze☆

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Connell

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sirensongs

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Vetter

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

  19. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Sheffield

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

  21. 5 out of 5

    Simon Maxwell-Stewart

  22. 4 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauri Timonen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Irene

  25. 4 out of 5

    Clay

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

  29. 5 out of 5

    libraryfacts

  30. 4 out of 5

    KnNaRfF

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