Other Sides

kubin01.jpg

Cover designer unknown.

What becomes clear in the course of Kubin’s long career is how literary a temperament he was, not only because of implicit narratives in much of his work, illustrative and otherwise. Some of his most arresting images in pen and ink seem to arise from some middle ground between writing and drawing, not calligraphy, exactly, but rather as though typeface had sprouted roots and tendrils and spread like invasive groundcover over the whole expanse.

Christopher Benfey, The Shadow World of Alfred Kubin

kubin02.jpg

All art by Alfred Kubin unless otherwise noted.

All the illustrations from the first edition.

kubin03.jpg

kubin04.jpg

kubin05.jpg

Cover art by Roman Cieslewicz.

Continue reading “Other Sides”

The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok

bok1.jpg

A belated note of thanks to Robert T. Garcia who sent me a PDF of this book a few weeks ago. The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok is a hardcover collection of three fantasy novels by artist Hannes Bok, all of which have been out of print for decades (75 years in the case of Starstone World). Bok has a lasting reputation as an illustrator of fantasy, science fiction and horror during the pulp era but he also wrote fiction and poetry for the pulps, in addition to essays for Mystic Magazine that included a short-lived astrology column. Two of Bok’s novels were published posthumously by Lin Carter in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, the existence of which intrigued me for many years, not least because the Ballantine paperbacks weren’t easy to find in UK bookshops. Bok’s fantasy isn’t quite to my taste (I prefer things to be generally darker and more grotesque) but I’m pleased to see these stories back in the world.

bok2.jpg

Contents:
The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok‘s cover art is by Bok (published previously in Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration in a poor image, scanned here for the first time from the original).
• Original Introduction by Charles de Lint!
• Ballantine Adult Fantasy editor Lin Carter’s introductions to The Sorcerer’s Ship and Beyond the Golden Stair, plus an all-new afterword detailing the publishing history of The Sorcerer’s Ship by Bok collector and college professor William Lorenzo. Publisher, Bob Garcia provided an introduction to Starstone World.
• A number of unpublished photos of Bok.
• Bok’s pulp art for The Sorcerer’s Ship is included, plus two paintings specified by the artist as illustrating that novel: a color reprise of an interior illustration and a color portrait of the creature Yanuk done for a fan.
• Since the other two novels did not have artwork by the artist, Jim Pitts provides us a wonderful original frontispiece for each.
• Bok sketches from The Hannes Bok Sketchbook Folio, and A Hannes Bok Sketchbook plus unpublished sketches.

bok3.jpg

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ballantine Adult Fantasy covers

Zemania

zeman01.jpg

Invention for Destruction (1958).

In addition to Jean Kerchbron’s Golem my weekend viewing involved a fresh immersion in the semi-animated fantasies of Karel Zeman, one of which, Invention for Destruction, I’d not seen for many years. It hadn’t occurred to me before how closely Zeman’s technique on these films matches some of my own recent illustration when it applies original drawn elements to settings constructed from old engravings. For Zeman, combining actors with animated models and pictorial backgrounds was an economical way of bringing to life the worlds of Jules Verne, Rudolf Erich Raspe and others while retaining the feel of the original book illustrations. These films are also closer to the Max Ernst school of engraved collage than they may at first seem. The mansion at the beginning of Invention for Destruction could easily have been an illustration of a single building but Zeman offers a hybrid construction with unrealistically conflicting perspectives; later on we see a desert cavalry of camels on roller skates. It’s no surprise that Jan Svankmajer admires Zeman’s films. And having recently watched all the Svankmajers it’s good to know there are several Zeman features still to see.

zeman02.jpg

zeman03.jpg

zeman04.jpg

zeman05.jpg

zeman06.jpg

Continue reading “Zemania”

Le Golem, 1967

golem01.jpg

There are always more Golems…

Le Golem is a 110-minute film based on Gustav Meyrink’s novel which hasn’t received as much attention as you’d expect considering the dearth of Meyrink adaptations. The production was for French TV so its obscurity may be a result of unavailability as much as anything else, television being a medium notorious for burying its own history. The DVD I was watching is an official release from INA with no subtitles (merci!), but English subs may be found online.

golem02.jpg

Meyrink’s novel isn’t an obvious choice for film or television adaptation despite the popularity of the Golem theme. His story is an uneven blend of mysticism and melodrama related via many digressions and rambling conversations. The title and the Prague setting suggest Paul Wegener’s Der Golem (1920), with the ghetto monster dominating the proceedings, but Meyrink’s Golem remains in the shadows (if it exists at all), being more of a symbol for the mystical and psychological challenges that beset Athanasius Pernath, the novel’s protagonist. Given all this I’m curious to know who decided to adapt the story when there’s so much about the film that would confuse an audience who hadn’t read the novel. The opening scenes move rapidly from a stylised city of the 1960s to the Prague ghetto of the past while omitting the attempts of Meyrink’s narrator to make sense of his situation. A note on the DVD states that the film was broadcast at 8:30pm on the national channel, ORTF, which makes its peculiarities even more surprising.

golem03.jpg

The director, Jean Kerchbron, spent much of his career filming adaptations of classic plays and stories for French television, ranging from adventure serials to Molière and Shakespeare. Writer Louis Pauwels was co-editor with Jacques Bergier of the popular Planète magazine, a journal of fantasy, science fiction and scientific speculation, but had little experience in the film world; Le Golem was his first feature for which he supplied the dialogue and adapted the story with Kerchbron. Pauwels and Bergier are names familiar to Anglophone readers of Fortean literature for The Morning of the Magicians (1960), their discursive treatise on “Fantastic Realism” whose success launched Planète and later gave David Bowie some ideas for lyrics. The pair refer to Meyrink in their book as a “neglected genius” prior to running an extract from one of the author’s later novels, The Green Face. Pauwels and Kerchbron manage to condense the work of the neglected genius without doing too much harm to his story, compressing some sections (a request for an explanation in a later scene is wisely rejected as “too complicated”) while omitting the overly mystical episodes that might have posed problems for a limited budget. Pauwels moves what’s left of the mysticism to Pernath’s philosophical voiceovers. Kerchbron’s direction is lively and much more elliptical than is usual for the plodding television medium. Novel and film only depart near the end when various plot threads are hastily tied together.

Continue reading “Le Golem, 1967”

Weekend links 524

heisler.jpg

Letter M from Abeceda (1942) by Jindrich Heisler.

• At the BFI: Matthew Thrift chooses 10 essential Ray Harryhausen films. “This is, I can assure the reader, the one and only time that I have eaten the actors. Hitchcock would have approved,” says Harryhausen about eating the crabs whose shells were used for Mysterious Island. Meanwhile, Alfred Hitchcock himself explains the attraction and challenges of directing thrillers.

“Although largely confined to the page, Haeusser’s violent fantasies were even less restrained, his writings littered with deranged, bloodthirsty, scatological scenarios.” Strange Flowers on Ludwig Christian Haeusser and the “Inflation Saints” of Weimar Germany.

• Death, Pestilence, Emptiness: Putting covers on Albert Camus’s The Plague; Dylan Mulvaney on the different design approaches to a classic novel.

• A trailer (more of a teaser) for Last and First Men, a film adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s novel by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…James Purdy: The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy.

Al Jaffee at 99: Gary Groth and Jaffee talk comics and humour.

Steven Heller on Command Records’ design distinction.

Czech Surrealism at Flickr.

Sisters with Transistors.

Solitude by Hakobune.

Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares (1974) by Tangerine Dream | Mysterious Traveller (Dust Devils Mix) (1994) by System 7 | The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra (2018) by Anna von Hausswolff