Archive for the ‘illustrations’ Category
The Tree of Terror ©
When one morning the gods had left the tree to pursue their tasks for the day a gnome with his hair riding the wind like some hundred wild stallions came across the tree and said, ‘I am the East Wind!’ The dragon who guarded the sacred tree said , ‘ None that has cold breath is welcome here’.
East Wind said: ‘ See my sword and it is still sharp and red hot. I gave all my warmth to it. I have no heat left.’
While the gnome of East Wind finished speaking there came a whirlwind and wasps in the rear. The stranger within it was a spectre, and he said, ‘Let me in. ’ The dragon looked him up and down and said, ‘None but the strong shall enter the sacred halls here.’ South Wind said, ‘The vast open spaces where the swirls of dust blow about shaped me as I am. My strength is in each speck of grit. They shall vouch for me.’ In answer the wasps buzzed and the whirlwind said ‘It is indeed so!’ The dragon smiled and said nothing. Who comes in but the West Wind in a titter. Stopping in front of the Cosmic Tree he said: ‘I am neither strong nor weak; neither a hero or a feckless woman,- I am what I choose to be.’ The dragon looked at the newcomer and sniffed. He said, ‘You smell nothing. I know bitter when I taste wind. Nor I get sweetness here.’ Perplexed the dragon asked ‘What are you really?’ ‘Oh my sweat!’ the West Wind giggled. “My smell is all in dem crystals and the oceans hold them for me.” The dragon raised his hand and said, ‘Hold it! I have my own counsel here’. He snapped his finger. The North Wind came. The dragon asked, ‘These three here. Are they to be admitted?
The West Wind brought salt out of thin air and sprinkled: The North Wind said, ‘My heart melts simply. He has charm.’
Then he went to the East Wind who drew his short sword and flashed, ‘Oh he dazzles my eyes with fire!’ the North Wind cried out. When the North Wind went to the South Wind the specks of dust swirled about as dervishes and became snowflakes. The North Wind was speechless. At last he found voice, ‘Of the Tree of terror, look at these fragile beauties against which no terror can overcome. ’ The tree said, ‘Yes let them all in. The gods could learn something useful from these three.
ack: wikipedia note: Yggdrasill would also mean “tree of terror, gallows.
Posted in 19th Century literature, illustrations, tagged allegory, antique dealer, Balzac novel, Benny Thomas, Honore de Balzac, Magic, pen and wash, Raphael de Valentin, Wild Asses Skin on April 20, 2013 | 2 Comments »
It is often said a writer is judged by his second book. In the case of Balzac La Peau de Chagrin was his second (if his Physiologie du Mariage is excluded It is not a literary work in the strictest sense).Yes Physiologie earned him notoriety as a rake that made him bristle with irritation. He protested .”Many women readers will be disappointed to learn that the author… is young,steadygoing as an elderly departmental manager, sober as an invalid on a diet…and a very hard worker.’ Of the last he was absolutely correct.)
His potboiler days were behind him and his head was teeming with ideas that never flagged. The novel that established him as a literary star came with La Peau de Chagrin. His day-book contains the germ of an idea: The discovery of a skin representing life. Oriental fable.’In January 1831 he sold it to Messieurs Charles Gosselin and Urbain Canel for the sum of 1,135 francs, a work in two volumes under the title La Peau.. which he was to deliver by 15 February. He was as usual in no hurry to get down to work. But working never frightened as much as his promises were easier given. He often ended up with contracts with the publishers that required inhuman labor something of twelve labors from Hercules. The book got off to a slow start.
When he noted down the idea first he thought of it no more than a fantastic novel in the manner of Hoffmann. He even referred to it as’ a piece of thorough nonsense in the literary sense..’ The story is about a magic talisman,an ass’s skin, which makes all its owner’s wishes come true. The only catch was that the skin would shrink with fulfilment of each wish, and when the skin disappears so will the owner. The aged and decrepit antique-dealer shown in the illustration sells to the central character, never dared to express a wish lest he should die. Balzac pondering over his work saw, as a true genius he was, hidden depths of human condition. He knew his father who had retired to his country estate in order to prolong his life. What would longevity mean? Is it not miserliness and to achieve it men economize their activities and their emotions? For them it carried all their wisdom because they dared not wish another. As the dealer discloses to Raphael his life-lesson,’Man expends himself in the performance of two instinctive acts which drain away all the sources of his being. All the forms of these two agents of death may be summed up in the two words ‘will’ and ‘can.’ ‘ By his genius he turned the Hoffmannesque fantasy into an allegory. It was set in his time. The truism,’It is the property of a good fable that the author does not know himself all the riches it contains’ was true in this case.
By this book mingling fantasy with realism he made the story vivid and totally absorbing. Jules Sandeau found it impossible to put down. The book made the young man from Tourain, unknown three years ago, who had with three works became the most sought out of all publishers, the golden boy of the booksellers and the women’s favorite author.
(Ack: Prometheus-The Life of Balzac/Maurois-Pelican bio)
Under The Dog-Star ©
The Army picked the youth from the video arcade.
“You can play virtual reality with the best shots in the country,” the major general with the glass eye said kindly. With his one good eye he had settled on him from the first day. He glanced past the unwashed and besotted set with which the youth hung out almost every night and he had learnt enough. It was time to get him on the side of the good.
Joachem Vanderbilt believed in certain things as gospel truth. He didn’t mind getting his hand dirty if he could pluck gold out of dirt. The boy’s reflexes were of first order. His tastes for art and culture faultless. His eye for art was excellent. He had in a month long operation found he even subscribed to world heritage foundation with his winnings at the pinball machine. ‘So he was good’. The major general was collecting his weapons to fight an Armageddon. Major General Joachem had a mission. He was to recruit for the Allies a special platoon. In high secrecy the Op HQ put the last touches to save the world from a Caliphate of Evil as the three star General, his boss had hinted in one of the top-level meetings.
Hendryk young as he was, only wanted to pass the time. But the Army had to give him an alternative.
Major-General Vanderbilt casually connected one evening and invited him over to the bar where it was cozy. The boy looked at the square chin and his battle scarred hands. It reminded in some curious way his father who was a farmer, an asparagus grower in Limburg. His hands also reminded vaguely of power and world- weariness. The general over a glass of Pils spoke short sentences just as his father. In his father it was to the point of tongue-tiedness. Drink or not.
“I have nothing to loose,” said the boy to himself. He drank a can and showed the older he was street smart when it suited him but could speak of Ming Art as fluently as Hellenic art if he wanted to. There was a rather studied nonchalance in the way he rolled a weed. The major general stopped him and the boy could not figure it out. He let himself leave it unlit. Did he want to please the elder? He didn’t know. He went home that late evening just as he told in an authoritarian way. ‘It is late, son.’he said and the boy didn’t ask why. He was on the side of good, the elder decided.
Next time they met the old soldier was just as kindly. With one look showed he was a surrogate father. Just with the same breath he made the army as an extended family. He was a father to every soldier. Hendryk could see that himself in the days to come. The father with one good eye saw the same idea was instilled in his children too. ‘So this army of young men become fighting fit.” Hendryk did not let the grass grow under his feet. He joined the army before the trial period was over.
He was sent to the boot camp to the south.
The new recruit did not let down the top brass. They found him most sharp. He had a promising career, said they all; so said the raw youths who were impressed and accepted him as one of them. At the end of the training his instructor wrote highly of his qualities in his confidential report.
The boy found the oath of secrecy and carefully orchestrated rites of male bonding with which the Army cements their ranks a somewhat mystifying experience. In the real computer space the boy zipped past all other recruits. Insulated in a dust-free, temperature controlled cubicle, he could zap all the alien dots that flickered into his console. Thus he came out to face the reality of the cruel world, gone out of joint.
Their engagements followed none of the script that set Darius against Alexander or Rommel against Monty of Al Amein. The rag tag bands of muleteers and the riff raff who idled around the hamams were all toting rifles and quoting the prophet. Those who lived for pleasure and lived for the moment now were talking of their Christian faith and mission. Who was good or bad somewhere lost its shape. The Jihadists were in the city and morphed to merge with the cityscapes while Hendryk and his band became equally adept to make deserts their cover.
The long drawn out war kept them, both good and bad, shuffling like a deck of cards: Hendryk didn’t miss a thing and he never let his cool even in the thick of hand to hand combats. He was a battle-hardened vet not yet past thirty.
It was during an undeclared war against Iran that Hendryk was sent with a special mission. He and his unit were airdropped in a fiery furnace that made even the sand sound more like glass than gravel. The trigger-happy soldier was like a salamander and he scurried about the jagged cliffs and stretches of sand on a mission. The terrible arsenal that Technology could gather for him, lay hooked to his trigger finger! “Where is my enemy?’ he drawled lying in his lair cocooned by all that hardware. The stinger he hoisted on his shoulder strap was a lethal piece.
“A Deadly Toy”, he blanched as he stared at it. “I could blow a whole civilization and yet not be seen in the enemy screen!” he murmured feeling the gorge rising within. He was drunk by his awesome invincibility. In a trice he stood up under the brazen sky, his gossamer thin army uniform shimmering like many waves of light. Sweat broke out within and he could feel it coursing like a snake, slithering down his spine. It was a danger signal. The heat was killing as those scorpions that suddenly lurked in the wave of sand. Crunch, crunch, his boots gave his feet all the protection. He inched forward and scorpions lifted their tail loaded with venom. They knew defeat when he came closer.
”Where is my enemy!” he asked even as his fingers involuntarily caressed the gleaming profile of his stinger. ‘A Click’ was all that he needed to hear before melting the blurred landscape before him. Somewhere in his backpack he could hear the crackling sounds. “Perhaps the system is righting itself to the heat outside” he thought. He could hear his heart beat but it came as if it were continents away. He was like a man…. drunk. In that stupor of invincibility he felt divided into bits and pieces many times over, scattered all over the continents yet all wired by some tenuous filament to the Mission H.Q.
Beads of perspiration plumped on to the scorching sand while he moved under the weight of backpack, some 110 pounds heavy. His regulation out-fit somehow didn’t reckon for the task he was sent.
“Where is my enemy?” he didn’t see a thing. The enemy was out there. All around him. The pestilential air crackled about him. Isfahan was fated to melt before him. The livid scorcher of a sun was above him. He thought it didn’t blind him because he wore protection glasses that no needle prick of the blind sun could get at. “Where is my enemy?” he would have cried out, but his throat was now shut like a vice!
Before he could even think ‘ Oranje Boven,’ he fell forward, a victim of sunstroke.