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Vathek (1786)

de William Beckford

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William Beckford wrote "The History of Caliph Vathek" in French in 1784, but it was first published in an English translation by Samuel Henley in 1786. Widely regarded as one of the seminal works of Gothic literature, this strange, unclassifiable novel recounts its eponymous protagonist's quest for esoteric knowledge and carnal pleasure, a quest which ultimately leads to his damnation.

"Vathek" combines exotic descriptions of the Orient with passages of grotesque comedy and a dollop of supernatural derring-do. Indeed, one of the challenges for modern sensibilities (and possibly its original readers as well) is to determine which passages should be taken at face value and which ones are to be read as self-parody. Even allowing for the genre's excesses, episodes such as that of a wizard being turned into a ball and kicked around Vathek's kingdom are clearly intended as black comedy. But what about Vathek's damnation, described in language of poetic intensity? Is the moralistic ending to be taken at face value or is Beckford being ironic? The author's letters suggest the former to be the case - which is rather surprising considering the atmosphere of decadence which permeates the novel.

If read purely for narrative pleasure, Vathek might disappoint. The plot is episodic, there are too many changes of gear, and the novel's ultimate message - if it does have one - is elusive and unclear. Yet, for anybody interested in early Romanticism, Orientalism, supernatural fiction or, for that matter, unusual literary fare, this is a must-read.

The Oxford World Classics text follows the 1816 English language version, prepared by Beckford himself. It includes an informative introduction by Roger Lonsdale which, interestingly, makes the case for *not* considering Vathek a Gothic novel. Also included are the erudite endnotes which Beckford included in the 1816 edition of Vathek (although first-time readers might prefer just reading through it and then consulting the notes on subsequent readings).

https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2020/03/William-Beckford-Vathek.html ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
> Cette édition de Vathek a le grand mérite de nous restituer ce texte, avec les deux autres épisodes liés à l'histoire du calife : "Histoire de la princesse Zulkaïs et du prince Kalilah", "Histoire du prince Barkiarokh". Didier Girard s'est livré à un travail de détective à partir des manuscrits des épisodes et des diverses versions de Vathek. Il nous propose ici la première version, imprimée à Lausanne en 1786, en donnant sous forme de notes les variantes opérées dans les éditions suivantes - nous avions jusqu'alors la version de 1787 revue et autorisée par Beckford. --Danieljean (Babelio)

> Citations et Extraits (Babelio) : https://www.babelio.com/livres/Beckford-Vathek-Conte-arabe/27960/citations ( )
  Joop-le-philosophe | Feb 20, 2021 |
William Beckford wrote "The History of Caliph Vathek" in French in 1784, but it was first published in an English translation by Samuel Henley in 1786. Widely regarded as one of the seminal works of Gothic literature, this strange, unclassifiable novel recounts its eponymous protagonist's quest for esoteric knowledge and carnal pleasure, a quest which ultimately leads to his damnation.

"Vathek" combines exotic descriptions of the Orient with passages of grotesque comedy and a dollop of supernatural derring-do. Indeed, one of the challenges for modern sensibilities (and possibly its original readers as well) is to determine which passages should be taken at face value and which ones are to be read as self-parody. Even allowing for the genre's excesses, episodes such as that of a wizard being turned into a ball and kicked around Vathek's kingdom are clearly intended as black comedy. But what about Vathek's damnation, described in language of poetic intensity? Is the moralistic ending to be taken at face value or is Beckford being ironic? The author's letters suggest the former to be the case - which is rather surprising considering the atmosphere of decadence which permeates the novel.

If read purely for narrative pleasure, Vathek might disappoint. The plot is episodic, there are too many changes of gear, and the novel's ultimate message - if it does have one - is elusive and unclear. Yet, for anybody interested in early Romanticism, Orientalism, supernatural fiction or, for that matter, unusual literary fare, this is a must-read.

The Oxford World Classics text follows the 1816 English language version, prepared by Beckford himself. It includes an informative introduction by Roger Lonsdale which, interestingly, makes the case for *not* considering Vathek a Gothic novel. Also included are the erudite endnotes which Beckford included in the 1816 edition of Vathek (although first-time readers might prefer just reading through it and then consulting the notes on subsequent readings).

https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2020/03/William-Beckford-Vathek.html ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Sep 12, 2020 |
Rating 3.6

Vathek : An Arabian Tale by William Beckford, written when he was just 21 in 1782. It is a combination of a Gothic novel and Orientalism. The 18/19century was noted for an obsession of all things Oriental. Vathek is the 9th Caliph of Abassides and is addicted to the pursuit of pleasures for all his senses. His major sin is gluttony. Carathis is his evil mother who is knowledgeable in science and occult.

Vathek meets up with a Indian merchant called Giaour who is really a Jinn. From that point Vathek engages in all kinds of horrors and eventually goes on a quest of of the throne of Soliman. During this quest he mistreats a host, Emir Fakreddin by taking his daughter Nouronihar. They finally arrive and find that the quest has led them to a place of great loss -- the loss of hope.

A quick read that is strongly influenced by literature such as Paradise Lost and has also influence other works of literature. ( )
  Kristelh | Feb 16, 2020 |
Vathek does a credible job of capturing the Arabian Nights tone and lush descriptive passages, based on my faint recollection. Anything mixing this and the Gothic is liable to turn incredible in places - and it does - testing a reader's patience if it's taken too seriously. But the story is still very determined to take itself seriously, notwithstanding. It barely touches upon comedy, and the drama can take some very dark turns as Vathek seeks out power above and beyond what he already enjoys as caliph. Given that he already has it all, and yet he's still tempted by infernal means of acquiring more, it's practically impossible to find any sympathy for him. His intermittent episodes of remorse are so impromptu and brief, and his chances to recant so many, he can't even be viewed as a victim of irresistible circumstance (or of his mother).

Beckford was writing at the height (circa 1790 to 1800) of the gothic period, while Anne Radcliffe was enjoying her throne as England's pre-eminent author before modern fiction began to take over. Even so, Vathek arguably does not fit completely into the gothic genre. It's more clearly bent towards adopting an Oriental storytelling tradition, which it is said to do remarkably well. It's an oddity among English literature and it continues to stand out today accordingly. Whether it's actually still enjoyable to read without knowing this context is another question given its preposterous plotting, unlikely events and too-plain moral. I had to drag myself through it, but I'd still take this over Radcliffe any day. ( )
1 vota Cecrow | Nov 12, 2019 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
William Beckfordautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Bawden, EdwardIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Benda, WolframTranslator and Afterwordautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Benda, WolframTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Blaine, MahlonIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Blei, FranzÜbersetzerautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Camerino, AldoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Carter, LinIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Cruz, RayAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Damman, BenjaminEngraver.autor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Elie, PaulIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Emmett, R.J.Introduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Fitz-Gerald, SJ AdairIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Graham, Kenneth W.Editorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Grimsditch, Herbert B.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Håkansson, GabriellaEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Helnwein, GottfriedIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Helnwein, GottfriedIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Henley, SamuelTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Isfelt, ArthurTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Lonsdale, RichardEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Lonsdale, RogerEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Marzials, Frank T.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Moravia, AlbertoPròlegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Morley, HenryEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
North, WilliamPròlegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Paoletti, GiovanniEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Pentleton, CarolDissenyadorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Pintor, GiaimeTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Redon, OdilonIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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The long and extravagant career of the author of Vathek would surely have impressed Samuel Johnson as a notable and sustained illustration of what his Imlac had called (in his own very different 'oriental' tale) 'that hunger of imagination which preys incessantly upon life'. (Introduction)
Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides, was the son of Motassem, and the grandson of Haroun al Raschid.
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Contains only Vathek. Please do not combine with editions containing The Episodes of Vathek or other works.
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