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The Black Spider (1842)

de Jeremias Gotthelf

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This review applies to the NYRB version translated by Susan Bernofsky.

Published in 1842, Gotthelf's The Black Spider, though clearly written by a devout man as a warning to Christians to take their faith seriously and not neglect their worship of god, turns out to be a great horror tale due to its author's vivid imagination. Peasants, under the rule of a cruel master, are faced with the impossible task of transferring 100 full grown trees to the lane leading up to the castle the same peasants have just broken their backs building. It is an impossible task--until a mysterious green man appears. Of course, we all know who he is, and so did the peasants, who were terrified. But faced with ruin at the hands of their evil master or immediate relief of their problem by the green man, perhaps there is room to consider. It is left to a woman to actually take the initiative....and that is about all you need to know. The story is told many years later in a nice framing device concerning the baptism of a new baby. You'll be lulled into this peaceful world, notable for the baptism feast, which the author describes lovingly and at great length. But then--the horror, the horror!

It certainly isn't necessary to be religious to enjoy this tale--I'm not. The descriptions of the horrible black spider and its rampage are quite graphic and very well done. Translator Susan Bernofsky has done a great job. Before buying this version, I read a comparison of this translation with another one, and this came out on top. It's a quick and worthwhile read. Unusally, for an NYRB published book, there is no foreword, no afterword, no supplementary material at all. Since such material often gives away the entire plot, and this book really doesn't require explanation, I'll count that as a plus.
  datrappert | May 11, 2020 |
Gran bel racconto del 1841. Veramente suggestivo. ( )
  zinf | Jan 3, 2019 |
I liked this one (it only took a while to read because I took a break, primarily because some borrowed e-books were finally off-hold from the library and my time with them was limited). It's a low four (I really wish we could rate out of 10, at least!), since I wasn't emotionally engaged, and the text is rather spare and dry--which suits the subject. It very much has the air of a legend being retold, and much of the book is indeed a story-within-a-story, so that makes sense. It's a classic (1842!) that somehow I'd never heard of or come across until this year, and it hold up very well. Unlike much modern horror, it's not stomach-turning and unreadable for me, so I appreciate that very much.

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s). ( )
1 vota ashleytylerjohn | Sep 19, 2018 |
Meh. Overly Christian morality tale, set in a 19thC Swiss village. The main action takes place a few centuries earlier, when the village was ruled by Teutonic Knights.

The tale is an old-style deal-with-the-devil story, in which the villagers are presented with a series of impossible tasks. The devil shows up, offering to help in exchange for an unbaptized child. A moral quandary ensues.

Much of this novella is engaging: the food porn that opens it, the actual tale, the writing. Where it went wrong for me was in the overbearing and nonsensical "lessons" that the author highlights. As a non-christian, I cannot help but think that the villagers cheated their way out of a deal they had knowingly entered into and which they then reneged on, so it was hard to sympathise with them. Furthermore, if their god is incapable or unwilling to help out, prevent the impossible task, or interfere in anything but coy and minuscule and indirect ways, he does not deserve the worship lavished upon him -- the devil is the real mvp here .

Other than the eyerolling Christianity on display, this was fairly enjoyable: dark enough to counterbalance the saccharine god-worship. ( )
2 vota Petroglyph | Sep 11, 2018 |
MA C'E'. E si sente. ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Gotthelf, JeremiasAutorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Bernofsky, SusanTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Tschumi, OttoIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Waidson, H. M.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Ueber die Berge hob sich die Sonne, leuchtete in klarer Majestät in ein freundliches aber enges Thal und weckte zu fröhlichem Leben die Geschöpfe, die geschaffen sind an der Sonne ihres Lebens sich zu freuen.
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Unter tausendfachen Todesschmerzen drückte sie mit der einen Hand die Spinne ins bereitete Loch, mit der andern den Zapfen davor und schlug mit dem Hammer ihn fest.
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NYRB Classics

NYRB Classics ha publicat 2 edicions d'aquest llibre.

Edicions: 1590176685, 1590176952

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