Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Off the Shelf #2
I am writing only for my shadow, which is now stretched across the wall in the light of the lamp. I must make myself known to him.
Everything I know about The Blind Owl author Sadegh Hedayat is that he wrote The Blind Owl and, in 1951, on a trip to Paris, he committed suicide. Without knowing that last bit, simply reading the first thirty-odd pages of this very slender novel would have put into my head the idea that his end was most likely self-inflicted. It is hopeless and despairing and bizarre from page one, and so far it reminds me of nothing so much as the short horror fiction of the notably mentally unstable Thomas Ligotti. I doubt very much that Hedayat would have placed his book into that or any other genre; I suspect he regarded it as an accurate representation of his brain. But then, so does Ligotti of his own fiction.
This is all relevant, or relevant-ish, because I first learned of The Blind Owl from Robert Irwin's entry for it in Stephen Jones and Kim Newman's Horror: Another 100 Best Books. Which I hasten to add I haven't read, because those books, invaluable as they are, tend to not mind spoiling things too much, but one way or another I was intrigued enough to get myself a copy of Hedayat's book. Where I am, about a fourth of the way in, the narrator is already secluded in his home with the corpse of the woman of his obsession, who arrived only to haunt him and then die, in that order, while he attempts to capture her image in a painting. It is a mad book, already, written by a sadly mad man, whose legacy will be madness. It is uncomfortable, hence, possibly, my flippancy.