the dark stranger by julien gracq


julien gracq’s second novel was called UN BEAU TENEBREUX and, according to this, was written in two spurts: in 1940 and 1942. it was published in 1945 and brought out in english in 1950 by new directions with this beautiful, word-less cover. gracq, who died in 2007 was considered at the time of his death the “last of the great universal writers”.

a somewhat plodding story about a ubermensch-wannabe who corrupts a crowd of european archetypes summering at a beachside resort, this novel is probably not the one that makes gracq’s reputation. but despite its flawed structure and some truly awful melodramatic scenes, there are still stunning examples of an elaborate, beautiful style studded with breath-catching insights.

here’s this gem on victor hugo’s taking issue with dante on his architecture of hell: “whereas Dante imagined the circles of his Inferno as gradually decreasing their spirals as they descended, like conical pits of ant-lions, towards the final well ‘where Satan weeps with six eyes’, Hugo, with a strange inversion of this image, sent his circles down in ever-widening spirals, to leave the imagination in a maelstrom, a vertigo, a vast mist-enveloped dissolution into the darkness” (p. 54).

can you grok it?!

discovered on will schofield‘s great list of neglected books.

“Literature was the last of all the arts to make its appearance. It will be the first to disappear.”

some more great gracq quotes can be found in thomas mcgonigle’s review of gracq’s READING, WRITING here.

find THE DARK STRANGER at a library.

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