Saturday, 13 August 2011

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

♫ Ashbury Heights – Christ

I have finally got around to writing a blog post which might actually be interesting at best! This time I shall babble about Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) and my everlasting interest in his literature. And well, persona too.

My first touch with his literature was in secondary school, at the age of fourteen, when we read a short Finnish translation of Berenice in a Finnish class. Quite soon I started to read his story compilations in Finnish, starting with The Gold Bug.

Today I own four books, one audio book and Lou Reed's concept album The Raven. Two of the books I have are in English: Tales of Mystery and Imagination; and The Complete Illustrated Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Considering that I have all of his stories within the covers of the latter, I would barely need anything else. However, I don't personally like holding and reading a book with nearly a thousand pages, thus, if I want to read a certain story and can find it in a lighter book, I opt for it.

Other two of the books are in Finnish; one contains Finnish translations of his less-known stories whereas the other comprises translations of his poems and a long introductory article.

Translated poetry is quite a controversial subject. On one hand I think that poetry is such a play with words and their carefully chosen placements within sentences that it's not a good idea to translate poems. On the other hand, the Finnish translations of Poe's poems are good, for real. I've read at least two different translations of The Raven, and years ago I could also recite the other by heart – yes, the whole long poem. I still remember very long parts of it. However, naturally his poems are at their best read in English, but I'm not a puritan telling you NOT to read any translations. The stories within his poems might still be worth it.

"'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—" (The Raven)
"And neither the angels in heaven above, / Nor the demons down under the sea," (Annabel Lee) 
"A blood-red thing that writhes from out / The scenic solitude!" (The Conqueror Worm)
Edgar Allan Poe wrote mostly short stories with only one full-length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. I have to admit, shamefully, that I haven't yet read it although it's been included in that full collection I own (d'oh!). I certainly should...

I've enjoyed many stories, and it's difficult to choose my favourite ones. Some of them, however, are The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, Ligeia, The Black Cat and The Masque of the Red Death. Those are all relatively well-known. He wrote many intriguing science fiction stories the plots of which I might remember, but not the names! :D If you have never read anything by Poe, I could recommend starting with one of those titles.

Poe is known for his "gothic horror stories", but I think that can be slightly misleading. That cannot be used to describe his whole (fiction) works. I think the name of the book I own, "tales of mystery and imagination", describes his works better. Sure, some of his stories are "pure gothic horror". Very many of them are not. He's sometimes considered to be the inventor of the modern detective story – so go figure; he's written stories of that kind. Some of them are science fiction. Some of them are just, well, the results of a dreamy mind wandering here and there, depicting strong humane emotions from anxiety to passion. If you're looking for actual gothic horror, you might not want to start with The Balloon-Hoax. The Murders in the Rue Morgue might not be that rewarding either.

And what was that CD I had? Lou Reed's concept album The Raven. I bought it merely because of the concept, and back then I didn't like it much. I haven't listened to it probably after that... I might like it more now, so I might need to try again.

"I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active - not more happy - nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago."
Ever since I found out about Poe, and at least until the end of high school, he and his stories were a great inspiration source for me. In Finnish classes I wrote several theses of him or his works and in art classes I depicted the world of his works (and even his personal life) in various ways. His effect on my personal works has been smaller in and after university, though my love for ravens will never fade. :}

"If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered."

I think Poe's simply genius. The sad story of his life is also very interesting, and I think it explains many aspects of his stories and poems – not literally, but many of the emotions he must have undergone.

"Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence."
"That man is not truly brave who is afraid either to seem or to be, when it suits him, a coward."
"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"
"The true genius shudders at incompleteness - and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be."
"There are few cases in which mere popularity should be considered a proper test of merit; but the case of song-writing is, I think, one of the few."
"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."
"Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'"
"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality."
Pardon me for the spam of Poe quotes, but I couldn't just choose a few. And still I omitted many. But I chose the ones that I found the mots inspiring and well, I hope other creative minds do so too.

I'm not particularly interested in visiting the US in general, but the Museum of Edgar Allan Poe is a place I'd like to go to! I wonder how many hours I could spend there if I went there... And how much money I could spend buying unnecessary shot glasses with his face printed on them etc. Oh well, maybe one day... I guess this is all for now. So long!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post.This book was so lovely.It should have been translated in different languages.Very informative and thrilling.Finnish translation or in any translation it would be a blast.Translating book shows the rich blend of knowledge and culture in a society.It is important that books written in a foreign language since it helps one to get acquainted with the thoughts, traditions, principles and actions of the people from the region


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