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The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies

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Jane de La Vaudère was one of the most unusual writers of the fin de siècle, renowned both for her scandalously scabrous Parisian novels, and her accounts of moeurs antiques, some of which—notably Le Mystère de Kama (1901)—set new standards of excess. Presented here is her first volume of short stories to be available in English, superbly translated by Brian Stableford: nin Jane de La Vaudère was one of the most unusual writers of the fin de siècle, renowned both for her scandalously scabrous Parisian novels, and her accounts of moeurs antiques, some of which—notably Le Mystère de Kama (1901)—set new standards of excess. Presented here is her first volume of short stories to be available in English, superbly translated by Brian Stableford: nine extravagant tales of hypnotism and magic, reincarnation and vengeance, animal tamers and necrophilia. Sublimely Gothic, exquisitely hallucinatory, these strange, fatalistic pieces by La Vaudère are surely a landmark in the annals of the fantastic.


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Jane de La Vaudère was one of the most unusual writers of the fin de siècle, renowned both for her scandalously scabrous Parisian novels, and her accounts of moeurs antiques, some of which—notably Le Mystère de Kama (1901)—set new standards of excess. Presented here is her first volume of short stories to be available in English, superbly translated by Brian Stableford: nin Jane de La Vaudère was one of the most unusual writers of the fin de siècle, renowned both for her scandalously scabrous Parisian novels, and her accounts of moeurs antiques, some of which—notably Le Mystère de Kama (1901)—set new standards of excess. Presented here is her first volume of short stories to be available in English, superbly translated by Brian Stableford: nine extravagant tales of hypnotism and magic, reincarnation and vengeance, animal tamers and necrophilia. Sublimely Gothic, exquisitely hallucinatory, these strange, fatalistic pieces by La Vaudère are surely a landmark in the annals of the fantastic.

30 review for The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Forrest

    Jane de La Vaudère's The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies came highly recommended to me from some readers whose opinions I highly regard. Those kind of expectations set me on edge, sometimes, as I'm prepared to be disappointed because, well, taste is taste, and no one has exactly the same taste. I went in, then, with a little trepidation, but some excitement, as well. I steeled myself for the worst . . . . . . then I melted into the pages. I found myself oozing into a pool of decadence and Jane de La Vaudère's The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies came highly recommended to me from some readers whose opinions I highly regard. Those kind of expectations set me on edge, sometimes, as I'm prepared to be disappointed because, well, taste is taste, and no one has exactly the same taste. I went in, then, with a little trepidation, but some excitement, as well. I steeled myself for the worst . . . . . . then I melted into the pages. I found myself oozing into a pool of decadence and supernatural fantasy. And though there were moments that tested my patience (more on this later), it was an enjoyable read. A good read, bordering on great. Kafkaesque suffering and injustice meet Borgesian ecstasies in the mist of a Coleridge opium-dream in "Emmanuel's Centenary". The poetics here are extraordinary and the plot at once excruciating and sublime. The voice is beautiful and terrifying. Heaven and hell, all at once. "A Vengeance" may or may not have a supernatural element to it. The reader's tilt, in this regard, will determine if the story is a piece of horror or simply a thriller. At issue is a statue and whether or not said statue had . . .intent. It all rides on this. It is an effective story in pushing the reader to make a decision and thus become more vested in it. I, for one, lean hard to intention! The titular story, "The Double Star" is a hallucinatory phantasmagoria of celestial imagery and occult symbolism. At moments a bit pedantic about non-vegetarians, it still shines with a certain gnostic luster, albeit of dubious philosophical merits. I'm making it sound like I didn't enjoy the story, but I rather did, in fact. Just a titch condescending is all. Really, a marvelous read! Mesmerism and a strange form of vampirism combine in the decadent tale "Reincarnation". And by "decadent," I mean clearly in the vein (pun intended) of the Decadent writers of the end of the 19th-century. A Dorian Gray-esque mechanism of transference is used to restore life and love. The story became a little long in the tooth with elaborate explanations of occult philosophy in the middle. It wasn't unbearable, but it was tedious. Very tedious. I noted this tendency in a few of the stories herein. I could have done with much less explication and more showing of doctrinal and theoretical concerns through the characters' dialogue, through action, or through the story structure itself. It's not a deal-breaker, but definitely slowed things down and dampened my enthusiasm. This story ended differently than I had expected, but in a guilty-pleasant surprise. I shouldn't have liked the ending, but I did. "Astral Amour" suffers from the same structural weakness-of-frame as "Reincarnation", and is more predictable in its ending. It is not quite as effective as the preceding tale, but it still stands with a high degree of quality and writerly aplomb. For example, this story contains the most eloquent description of anti-natalism I've ever read. And making anti-natalism into a thing of eloquence is quite a feat (just ask Thomas Ligotti). One day, I learned that Viviane was a mother. I conceived a profound chagrin in consequence, for it seemed to me that the little being who was scarcely breathing would take all the solicitude of the woman. Nature has determined that there should be an infinite tenderness in maternity, in order that the torture of childbirth should be braved and desired even by those faint hearts who do not understand the futility of their mission and the cruelty of their obedience. An admirable folly that consists of making with one's flesh and blood sad and paltry beings whose life will be spoiled by the thought of death, and who will toil daily without a single moment of real happiness! A proud folly that consists of building temples and palaces that the wind will sweep away, and which will have scarcely more duration than the pygmies who constructed them! "Yvaine" is a convoluted, engrossing tale of love, betrayal, incest, murder, black magic, and spectral vengeance. The framing mechanisms' dated feel do not lessen the impact of the story. Like all great horrific tales, this one extends far beyond the pages, with an ending full of frisson. How this story was not anthologized several times over, I don't know. To me, it is a Classic. This story is worth the full price of the book and then some. "Sapho" is a clever little story. Very clever. Very short. Who is the real hunter and prey in this tale? It all depends on your perspective. Another circus story, this one entitled "Red Lust," isn't quite as effective as "Sapho," as it misses the cleverness of the former tale. La Vaudere has a fascination with black panthers and circuses, I've noticed. Still, a good story, well-told. It could have benefited with a little more background on the antagonist, Antonia. "The Dream of Myses" is, indeed, a nightmare, albeit a poetic one. The story is of the much and rightfully-maligned "it was all a dream" type, but in an inverse fashion. I'm also not a big fan of stories set in ancient Egypt - I don't know why, I just don't like the setting. It's a good story with strengths, but it didn't astound me like some of the others in this collection. Though stilted, in places, this is a strong collection. "Yvaine" is one of the stronger stories I've read in a while and, as I said, compensates for the price of admission all on its own. The other stories range from rather good to outstanding, and de La Vaudère's signature voice can be heard throughout (undergirding a variety of voices from here varied characters, some of whom are quirky enough that you might identify people you know "in" them). If I saw an anthology with one of her stories in it, I would be sure to pick it up, as I am certain that her voice would add strength that otherwise might remain unseen, if we are only to rely on the male decadent writers, as good as some of them are. I would hope that future decadent anthologies would include her work, particularly as translated by the inimitable Brian Stableford. Her voice must be heard!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    full post here: https://www.oddlyweirdfiction.com/202... my second read of this book and it is still a perfect ahhhhh. I'll ask again: what would we do without Brian Stableford? The man is a lean, mean translating machine, and he has an uncanny knack for uncovering the best work by heretofore unknown authors. I actually read The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies some time ago, but recently when someone I know online said they were reading it, I decided I would read it a second time. I'm so gl full post here: https://www.oddlyweirdfiction.com/202... my second read of this book and it is still a perfect ahhhhh. I'll ask again: what would we do without Brian Stableford? The man is a lean, mean translating machine, and he has an uncanny knack for uncovering the best work by heretofore unknown authors. I actually read The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies some time ago, but recently when someone I know online said they were reading it, I decided I would read it a second time. I'm so glad I did. It was definitely the right time. As Stableford notes in his introduction to this book, "a Poesque fascination with what the American writer called 'The Imp of the Perverse' seems to have been a constant feature in the artistry of La Vaudere's literary endeavour, and perhaps her life as well, if what seem to be echoes of her own sentiments in her work really are revealing. That element of her work made her a significant writer in the development of modern horror fiction, although she is not mentioned in any reference book on the subject." Let me repeat: "a significant writer in the development of modern horror fiction," yet her work remains relatively unknown. I say, read this book and you'll want to read everything she's ever written. In these tales, as quoted from "The Dream of Myses," the final story in this collection, "The passions ... all flow from amour, the fundamental law of the world." They do not, however, necessarily remain earthbound or cease at death; the obsessive desire for a love which continues beyond this earthly realm (and the consequences thereof) is the essence of this book. These stories encompass reincarnation, reanimation, astral projection, hypnotism, chimeras, mysticism, dreams and more, with all but the opening story, "Emmanuel's Centenary," entrenched in elements of the erotic and the sexual. I'm not going to go into any detail at all about any of the nine stories in this volume; they are truly best discovered by the reader with no knowledge ahead of time. To say that the stories in this book are excellent does not quite do them the justice they deserve. They are delicious, sublimely written, decadent and dark, and offer a look at "the scraps of the terrible mystery" as they "unveil eternity." I seriously cannot praise this book enough. Patience may be required but the rewards are ample.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Janie C.

    Feverish, decadent and sublime. Amour.

  4. 4 out of 5

    William Oarlock

    Yet another fine translation from Brian Stableford of nine works from Jane de La Vaudere, after Rachilde, the second great woman writer to emerge from the great French Decadent-Symbolist movement of the 19th Century. "Emmanuel's Centenary" tells the tragic tale of a celebrated poet reincarnated as a failed vagabond. "A Vengeance" draws on Merimee's 'Venus of Ille' as much as Poe ('Berenice' being a leading character's name). The titular story "The Double Star" is a truly unique and vibrant piece of Yet another fine translation from Brian Stableford of nine works from Jane de La Vaudere, after Rachilde, the second great woman writer to emerge from the great French Decadent-Symbolist movement of the 19th Century. "Emmanuel's Centenary" tells the tragic tale of a celebrated poet reincarnated as a failed vagabond. "A Vengeance" draws on Merimee's 'Venus of Ille' as much as Poe ('Berenice' being a leading character's name). The titular story "The Double Star" is a truly unique and vibrant piece of imaginative fiction influenced by the cosmic-spiritual theories of Camille Flammarion. "Reincarnation" is a deliciously vicious reworking of Poe's "Ligeia". "Astral Amour" a story of hypnotism and intersecting obsession resulting in murder and madness. The novelette "Yvain" tells the doom of a gambler who adopted black magic. Both "Sapho" and "Red Lust" are brief prose poems. And finally "The Dream of Myses" a macabre period tale of a necrophiliac Egyptian embalmer-priest. Recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    This hardcover is limited to 60 copies.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Beautiful, enigmatic, delirious and passionate.......my favourite book so far of 2018!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    Not to be missed if you like French Decadence. This is the first selection of Jane de la Vaudère in English. I now extremely want her novellas The Demi-Sexes and The Androgynes. 'Occult fantasies' is right, as most of the stories revolve around the occult sciences that obsessed everyone from Conan Doyle to The Magic Mountain. Don't despair if you're sick of hypnotism or spiritualism. These have a more scientific edge than I've seen before, with a few qualifying for the label 'early science fictio Not to be missed if you like French Decadence. This is the first selection of Jane de la Vaudère in English. I now extremely want her novellas The Demi-Sexes and The Androgynes. 'Occult fantasies' is right, as most of the stories revolve around the occult sciences that obsessed everyone from Conan Doyle to The Magic Mountain. Don't despair if you're sick of hypnotism or spiritualism. These have a more scientific edge than I've seen before, with a few qualifying for the label 'early science fiction'. Stableford's intro claims her as an unacknowledged horror early, too. These stories are wild, with a splatter to rival whatever's written today -- and yet all in the name of amour, which Stableford does not translate, in order to keep her theme and let the word accrue its resonance. Not much is known about Jane de la Vaudère (Jeanne Scrive), but from my years of enthrallment with French Decadence in translation, I'd say she has been neglected.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Castleman

    A story collection that’s thematically very tight but with a broad range of settings and plotlines. Filled with passion, florid descriptions and otherworldly weirdness of the best vintage kind. If you love Poe and are looking for other writers with distinct takes on that style, this is a great example.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A delightful collection of occult tales from de La Vaudere. The stories are dark and dripping with grotesque, descriptive prose and a fascination with Egyptian mythology and orientalism, in particular other cultures' relationship with the dead. Also prevalent: hallucination, hypnotism, reincarnation, dreams and decay — like any good Decadent writing. Strong women with questionable intentions play a recurring role in the stories here. Four stars only because some of the writing is a little overwr A delightful collection of occult tales from de La Vaudere. The stories are dark and dripping with grotesque, descriptive prose and a fascination with Egyptian mythology and orientalism, in particular other cultures' relationship with the dead. Also prevalent: hallucination, hypnotism, reincarnation, dreams and decay — like any good Decadent writing. Strong women with questionable intentions play a recurring role in the stories here. Four stars only because some of the writing is a little overwrought, bordering on 19th century pulp... which might be to some readers' liking, but became a bit much for me. Very happy Snuggly has brought de La Vaudere to an English reading audience. Can't wait to explore more of her writing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam Hicks

    The description of these stories as 'exquisitely hallucinatory' drew me in, but proved to be inaccurate. I loved the first story 'Emanuel's Centenary' and my hopes were raised by its fevered strangeness, only to be dashed by the overwrought (in a bad way) and drearily recounted fable-like stories that followed. Again and again, exquisitely beautiful and 'good' women or exquisitely beautiful and 'bad' women become the love objects of men who possess the mesmeric, magnetic powers which were all th The description of these stories as 'exquisitely hallucinatory' drew me in, but proved to be inaccurate. I loved the first story 'Emanuel's Centenary' and my hopes were raised by its fevered strangeness, only to be dashed by the overwrought (in a bad way) and drearily recounted fable-like stories that followed. Again and again, exquisitely beautiful and 'good' women or exquisitely beautiful and 'bad' women become the love objects of men who possess the mesmeric, magnetic powers which were all the rage at the time. Poorly constructed and tiresomely told. Gave up towards the end when some nonsense about a high priest in the 'dwelling of Myses in Thebes' started up.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    3.5 stars. A book of short stories with very poetic, gothic language. Some words I noticed are used repetitively. Most stories had boring parts and very detailed climaxes. The ideas in this book, some of the settings are just so rare. There is a story about someone living on another sun, a story about an embalmer in ancient Egypt, just things you wouldn't think of or see in other books. 3.5 stars. A book of short stories with very poetic, gothic language. Some words I noticed are used repetitively. Most stories had boring parts and very detailed climaxes. The ideas in this book, some of the settings are just so rare. There is a story about someone living on another sun, a story about an embalmer in ancient Egypt, just things you wouldn't think of or see in other books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    rob

    more decadent tales... the title story and the novella Yvaine were the best things here

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennalee Johnston

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Connell

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

  17. 4 out of 5

    libraryfacts

  18. 5 out of 5

    Henry Moulder

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul C

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ross Scott-Buccleuch

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nikos

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barry Hill

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rita

  26. 5 out of 5

    Scott Erdmann

  27. 5 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

    Sander

  29. 5 out of 5

    Egaeus Press /

  30. 5 out of 5

    Altichiero

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