Roarings from Further Out
Xavier Aldana Reyes, Algernon Blackwood
The reputation of early-twentieth century British writer Algernon Blackwood currently resides with his two novellas `The Willows’ (1907) and `The Wendigo’ (1910), and with good reason. They are perfectly crafted horror tales that convey feelings of mystical otherness; they hint at the possibility that there are forces which lie beyond the confines of our everyday understanding of the world and which may, given the right circumstances, manifest to humans. In `The Willows’, `unearthly’ creatures are responsible for arousing `some dim ancestral sense of terror more profoundly disturbing than anything’ the protagonists have ever known. In `The Wendigo’, fear of the titular monster from Native American folklore is used to create a discombobulating atmosphere of dread. In both novellas, as in many other of Blackwood’s fictions, wild landscapes (a desolate island, a labyrinthine forest) act as more than enhancing backdrops to the action – they become essential elements to the generation of anxiety and metaphysical awe. Both stories have become staples of the weird literary tradition, of which Blackwood was undoubtedly a modern master. Blackwood’s slow and measured prose, deeply psychological and descriptive, grants his fiction an intrinsic cumulative effect. It both builds up to potent climaxes and brilliantly chronicles the aftermath of horrific encounters. His poignant narrative pace, sparse use of action and marked interest in how the mind filters perceptions, rather than on objective physical descriptions, makes Blackwood truly unique. Only a handful of other stories in horror fiction manage to conjure up the type of uncanny ambience found in `The Willows’ and `The Wendigo’. This is why they are included in this collection.
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