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Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction

The Vorrh, by Brian Catling

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vorrhI started reading The Vorrh because it gave me the impression it would be some very good fantastic literature. The fact that it was introduced by the usually reserved from public appearances, commentaries and endorsements Alan Moore was a guarantee for that. And let me clarify that by fantastic literature I don’t refer to all the books you will find in the bookstore shelves under ‘Fantasy’, but to the wider spectrum of fantasy fiction that includes Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, Algernon Blackwood, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Neil Gaiman, fables and fairytales and so on. This is the quality I expected and I was not disappointed.

But The Vorrh is so much more than that. It is a book that walks skillfully across genres, like only very good literature can do. It is as much fantasy as it is historical fiction and steampunk, playing all along with Jungian archetypes. The Bowman, one of the protagonists-narrators is such a one. The eye, and everything related to that (blindness, cyclopes, photography and much more), is another.  More protagonists include Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria’s personal doctors and the one who first understood and named anorexia nervosa, Eadweard Muybridge and his famous zoopraxiscope and Raymond Roussel, the author who influenced the Oulipo and the surrealists.

It is from Roussel’s novel Impressions of Africa (1910) that the Vorrh takes its name. Brian Catling’s Vorrh is a vast, unmapped territory with not so easily defined forms of existence and irreversible effects to whoever goes too deep or stays inside for too long. All the themes of the coloniser and colonised are revisited but in a new way, one of an author that has been exposed to and digested postcolonial rhetorics; this has a very interesting effect that feels at the same time recognisable and entirely new.

The Vorrh is also a metaphor for the savage, for the woman and the unknown. But most importantly it is a metaphor for reading. It is dense and intense and it will have an irrevocable effect on the reader, same as the forest has to those who dare enter its core. I cannot recommend it enough.

My thanks to Honest Publishing for the review copy. This book is one more piece of proof that small and independent publishers choose the best literature and should be whole-heartedly supported!

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