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The Book of the Damned (Secret Books of…
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The Book of the Damned (Secret Books of Paradys) (1988 original; edició 1990)

de Tanith Lee (Autor)

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275684,155 (3.41)8
In this first volume of The Secret Books of Paradys, Lee begins the search for a demonic creature seemingly impervious to sword, conjuring, or prayer. Readers won't want to miss number two in the series, The Book of the Beast.
Membre:EstarriolAdAstra
Títol:The Book of the Damned (Secret Books of Paradys)
Autors:Tanith Lee (Autor)
Informació:The Overlook Press (1990), 240 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
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The Book of the Damned de Tanith Lee (1988)

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The first of Tanith Lee's "The Secret Books of Paradys" features three tales set in a shadow version of Paris across a span of several centuries; while no dates are referenced, the settings appear (by the furniture and references) to be post-revolution, early Renaissance and late 19th century respectively.


The prose is dense and rich (short of purple, but it did take me a few pages to adjust from the sparer writing I've grown used to), and the style in each section subtly different reflecting its era. As usual, Tanith Lee is firmly Gothic - both in the tradition of Radcliffe, Lewis, Poe and Chambers - as well as the fact is feels as though it should be accompanied music from the Sisters of Mercy and All About Eve.


The first-person narrators and supporting cast are those on the fringes of society - Stained in Crimson is told by a louche left-bank poet who stumbles into a game with a mysterious brother and sister, which may have been fated; in Malice in Saffron a country girl running from abuse by her step-father joins both a nunnery and street-gang, her double life allowing her to exact vengeance on those who have harmed her and wider society; and in Empires of Azure a journalist is pulled into the web of connections between a female impersonator and ancient magic.


This gender fluidity is, in fact, central to each of the tales, manifesting as either literal transformation or subterfuge. Likewise, the gender power relationships often flip unexpectedly - literary tropes of direct action by men and manipulation by women are introduced and reversed. Rape makes an uncomfortably frequent appearance, although it is not confined to female characters.


It must be said that few of the characters beyond the central ones are drawn as more than sketches, but this suits the mythic quality of the stories and is not really a weakness. The first two parts, Crimson and Saffron, are truly excellent, affecting tales, although Azure felt to me somehow unfinished; the writing felt rather less polished and the construction lacking, while the ending somewhat pointless, otherwise The Book of the Damned may well have been a five star book. ( )
  Pezski | Jun 21, 2020 |
Re-reading...

The Books of Paradys are a set of four collections of novellas all set in a dark and hallucinatory version of a former Paris. In part they're an homage to various 19th-century authors, especially the French symbolists, but they showcase Tanith Lee's unique and strikingly original vision to perfection. Some of the best writing, by one of my favorite authors. They can be read in any order, but The Book of the Damned was first published... and as the title suggests, it gives us a collection of characters who will find no redemption.

Stained with Crimson
A dissipated young man develops an obsession with a cold and enigmatic woman - a newcomer to Paradys, a foreigner who has quickly become known for running a salon. But his interest is unrequited, and it seems that there may be something unsavory and ominous about her household. After a death, and a fateful duel, there is an inexplicable/supernatural, but neatly balanced, reversal of the situation.
Lush yet subtle, the gender-twisting vampire tale brings to mind both Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.

Malice in Saffron
This is the 'pilgrim's progress' of Jehanine, a young farm girl. Assaulted by her stepfather, she flees to the city to find her beloved brother - who repudiates her as a harlot. From there, her journey will take her through the extremes of sin and saintliness, theft and sacrifice. She will act as male and female, depraved murderer and holy nun, until she and her brother come full circle and around again. If you try to extract a moral message from the tale, you are likely to be stymied - and that's exactly the point.

Empires of Azure
A multilayered ghost story, with similar themes echoing through different lives.
A journalist who writes under a male pseudonym is approached by a man who makes his living as a cross-dressing performer. He tells her that soon he will die. Investigating, she finds him missing, and discovers that he was living in a notorious house of scandal, scene of the death of a wild young woman. Both of them were obsessed with an ancient Egyptian princess, whose Cleopatra-like life story ended in tragedy... but the story stretches back even further, to an ancient sorcerer (or sorceress?) whose influence has stretched through the ages.
I read in this one a mirrored acknowledgement of how we might romanticize the Paris of the past (as Lee blatantly does in the books of Paradys) just as her 19th-century-esque characters (and those they're based on) romanticize ancient Egypt...

I've read this volume before, but many thanks to Open Road Media and NetGalley for providing an eBook copy. As always, my opinions are solely my own. ( )
2 vota AltheaAnn | May 3, 2016 |
This book is actually three novellas: that of a poet who may or may not tangle him or herself up with vampire(s), that of an abused peasant girl who runs away to Paradys and becomes nun by day, bullyboy by night, and a writer who investigates the strange deaths of two beauties in a single house. In all three tales, gender is fluid, sexualities are twisted, and inexplicable shadows loom.

I would rate the stories higher, but I found the writing almost impenetrable. I still don't know what the first tale was about, or how it was resolved. Here's a taste of Lee's style:
"And rising and sinking in the billows of shadow, the light was cleaved to crimson, crimson through and through, a dye never to be washed out, through the wounds of a redeemer might wash away all sins and stains. Crimson, crimson, the caves, the river, flowers and fruit and crystal and blood. Crimson the benediction; the waves, crimson, that never ended and were never begun, and were never begun or ended."
Very poetic but not particularly helpful in terms of exposition. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This work (like one or two others by Tanith Lee) has been simultaneously fascinating and baffling me for years. For instance, I’ve just read it through twice in succession, and I’ve read it a couple of previous times over the years, yet I’m still not sure if it is a novel in three parts or three, separate novellas on a common theme.

Her characters move through different ages of her fictionalised version of Paris: a mediaeval cutthroat of the dark alleys and the night; a dissolute, self-destructive bohemian writer; an Edwardian drag queen. But her characters are often not what they seem – or, if they are, they are liable to not stay that way, metamorphosing into something else; for, in whatever age, the world of this novel is one where the supernatural is a reality. In fact, allied to my confusion over whether this is a single work or not, it’s difficult to work out how many separate characters there are – some may or may not be single beings reincarnated.

I strongly suspect Ms Lee of allegory and symbolism, though I’m not even sure of that; so I’m simply offering for consideration the idea that the theme of the book could be the selfish, destructive passion and desire for possession we can have for another human being; the kind of passion that will do neither you nor its object much good but which makes for great opera or drama (or novels). Then again, a theme could be gender roles; for this is a world where characters are liable to move across gender boundaries in a variety of ways. The book is rich with rather oblique cultural references, too. You can catch a half-allusion to Joan of Arc, say, or a poem by Poe, and then you puzzle what, if any, may be the implication.

One thing I am sure of is the quality of Ms Lee’s writing. She writes a colourful, poetic prose, rich with metaphor and simile, which carries your imagination through the book even while your intellect is struggling for meanings and patterns, and she can put striking pictures before your mind’s eye with just a few brush strokes. She has created a work poised somewhere between fantasy and fin-de-siècle and dark (very dark on times), gothic horror. If that appeals to you and you don’t mind being challenged and puzzled, I strongly recommend it. ( )
5 vota alaudacorax | Sep 11, 2010 |
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We were young, we were merry, we were very very wise,
And the door stood open at our feast,
When there passed us a woman with the West in her eyes,
And a man with his back to the East.

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to Endless Night.

William Blake
From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rage would rend ye,
And the spirit that stands by the naked man
In the book of moons defend ye!

Anonymous: 17th century
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How fast does a man run, when the Devil is after him?
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In this first volume of The Secret Books of Paradys, Lee begins the search for a demonic creature seemingly impervious to sword, conjuring, or prayer. Readers won't want to miss number two in the series, The Book of the Beast.

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