Synopses & Reviews
Written in 1782 by the near-legendary hedonist William Beckford, Vathek was the first Oriental-Gothic horror novel in English literature. It tells the story of Vathek, the debauched and pleasure-seeking ninth Caliph of the Abassides, who decides to build a great tower to "penetrate the secrets of heaven." The appearance of an Indian magician arouses Vatheks thirst for knowledge and he is willing to go to any lengths, including the sacrifice of 50 of the most beautiful boys in his kingdom, to gain access to the "Palace of Subterranean Fire," where the magician promises he will find treasures, intelligences and talismans that control the world. A rousing novel, Vathek is a classic tale of greed and lust for power containing magic, trickery, and betrayal all culminating in an age-old showdown between good and evil.
Even weirder than the Gothic excesses of Horace Walpole's Castle Of Otranto, even wilder than Matthew Lewis' The Monk, William Beckford's Vathek remain the most extreme example of English 18th century literature, a crawling meditation on the transgressions of the depraved. Witches, demons, human sacrifices and other spectral horrors mark the progress of Vathek, ninth caliph of the Abassides, on his pilgrimage to the underworld, where his sins and damnations flower into eternal torture.
Originally composed in French, Vathek was translated into English in 1816. and it is this version which is included herein. Also included is a brand new introduction by Jeremy Reed, who aligns the book's decadent outrages with latin literary outlaws, and also details the extraordinary life of William Beckford, an eccentric who dissipated his entire fortune on the erection of gothic follys, and on the homosexual indiscretions which finally resulted in his exile from England.
The edition is illustrated by the bizzare lithographs of Odilon Redon, the 19th century Symbolist who was compelled to reproduce the most insane images from his unconscious through the inspiration of Baudelaire, Huysmans, and other "dangerous" writers of his age.