Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Rhampsinitus and the Thief by Herodotus

The story is one of many myths and fairytales collected in a volume. This particular tale involves a builder making a chamber of stone in the home of king Rhampsinitus, the biblical Ramses. But he disposes one of the stones in such a manner that it could be taken out easily. When he is old, he tells his two sons how the gold can be found. The story is brutal, somewhat bloody and lacking in humanity and respect for other people.

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC (c.484 BC – c.425 BC). He was considered the "father of history" in Western culture and the first historian known to collect information in a certain way, to test their accuracy and arrange them. He learned this tale in Egypt around 440 BC, perhaps by priests. Herodotus didn't believe it to be true but never the less reported what he was told. It's fascinating to read such ancient stories that have influenced people and perhaps literature, culture and believes as well. It resembles the tales of "The Thousand and One Nights", but this one, with only three pages, is too short to manage much of a captivating ability.

The torture garden by Octave Mirbeau

The novel, published in 1899, examines an attitude to life without right and wrong, good and evil. Beauty and pain are constantly present, mentally or physically. They are melting together and eventually it's difficult to see the difference. Perhaps they were always the same.

The story follows a young man, a corrupt politician, on a journey where he meets his love interest, a sadistic woman. She brings him to a torture garden in China, where old forms of torture are practiced and where he learns that pain borders on pleasure, and love and suffering originate from the same source of brutal emotions. The contrast, or perhaps the collaboration, between sadistic expressions of love and sensual expressions of death makes it beautiful and fascinating. The fact that they are codependent, that one can't be appreciated without the other, is apparent. Since the torture garden is beyond good and evil, neither one is less important and dignified. The infinite amount of passion and the perverted nature of human beings that might be the true nature, not the norm, have no limits. There is a freedom of expression that couldn't be found Europe in the late 19th century.

In the torture garden the beautiful flowers feed on blood from the tortured prisoners to prosper, and people are, in a way, reborn in a limitless cycle of life. In this world, pleasure is pain, love is suffering, torture is a work of art, blood is the wine of love and beauty is murder. At the same time the portrayal is a critique of the European society. The pages of murder and blood are ironically dedicated to people like priests, soldiers and judges, people who kill or restrict others from freedom and beauty. The torture garden might be interpreted as an allegory, an intense, miniature Europe. Mirbeau claimed that "the law of murder" was inconsistent in the late 1800's and wanted to portray the European civilisation as not so civilized. The government allowed murder when it benefited from it, but not when it had a real purpose. According to one of the characters in the book, the accepted view of war and colonialism were necessary because the government was only legitimized by murder. As this might also be the belief of the author, much of the book deals with these forms of hypocrisy. Just as in real life, executioners in the torture garden kill people in the service of death, but not for a meaningless purpose but as a work of art. Since we don't question murder in the service of rulers, politicians and judges, why would we question expressions of freedom and the beauty of art? Wouldn't that prove that we haven't learned anything the last century, and make us the very same hypocrites that Mirbeau indicated we were?


The necrophiliac by Gabrielle Wittkop

The story centers around a necrophiliac and his lovers that he brings from the cemeteries. His love for them is uncompromising and inconsiderate. Naturally, the story is absurd, bizarre, repulsive and desecrating. But, at the same time, it's beautiful, describing a sublime element in something horrible. An expressive prose flows wonderfully and as a matter of fact the choice of description liberates it from being vulgar.

The author describes the necrophiliac as between two worlds. He would like to live and to die, but can neither live nor die. The way he looks at death might be described as liberating. He perceives living people as if on their way, waiting for them. All flesh carries the seed to it's own destruction, as mentioned in the book. But to never be able to have something everlasting is a void, never being filled, and makes it possible to sympathize with him, whose life centers around a struggle to satisfy his repugnant needs. One after the other he has to get rid of them, however carefully he tries to preserve them. But what is really everlasting?

Gabrielle Wittkop was an interesting author, known for her peculiar literary works. She vindicated a strong sexual indulgence and breach as the only way to give life meaning. Not surprisingly, she was a fan of Markis de Sade. Le nécrophile, published in 1972, was her debut novel.


Clarimonde by Théophile Gautier

This collection includes four horror stories with gothic elements. La Morte Amoureuse, Le Chevalier double, Le Pied de momie and Deux acteurs pour un rôle. La Morte Amoureuse – Clarimonde – is the first and the most interesting.

The story centers around a priest, Romuald, and his meeting with a young, beautiful woman, Clarimonde. He is incapable of restraining himself and falls into a peculiar situation. The gothic segments are profound, and the story includes everything from death to vampires. Although, it's a rather nice vampire and a victim that prefers to be with her instead of living his chaste life.

The novel alternates between Romuald's two conditions and he is not aware of which is his real life. Is he dreaming when meeting Clarimonde, or when he is a priest? What is reality and what is illusion? Another question is whether it could all be a dream about seduction considering his newly taken wows?

Gautier was one of the initial French authors in the romantic period. According to Gautier, art is eternal, while everything else perishes. The phrase ”l’art pour l’art” - art for art's sake – is credited to him, even if not made up entirely by him. He claimed that art didn't need moral justification and was allowed to be neutral. Gautier was highly influential in the early romantic era.