I don’t get much time to read works of fiction these days which somewhat pains me since some books have been a more faithful companion through life’s myriad rises and falls than many an erstwhile friend or partner. However reading a vivid opening paragraph like this makes me want to return to my former page-turning ways:
“I knew nothing of the splendour of its coasts, nor of Bain, the Harbour City, whose lights and colours spill into the ocean like a cataract of roses. I did not know the vastness of the spice markets of Bain, where the merchants are delirious with scents. I had never seen the morning mists adrift above the surface of the green Illoun, of which the poets sing; I had never seen a woman with gems in her hair, nor observed the copper glinting of the domes, nor stood upon the melancholy beaches of the south while the wind brought in the sadness from the sea. Deep within the Fayaleith, the Country of the Wines, the clarity of light can stop the heart; it is the light the local people call “the breath of angels” and is said to cure heartsickness and bad lungs. Beyond this is the Balinfeil, where, in the winter months, the people wear caps of white squirrel fur, and in the summer months the goddess Love is said to walk and the earth is carpeted with almond blossom. But of all this I knew nothing. I knew only of the island where my mother oiled her hair in the glow of a rush candle, and terrified me with stories of the Ghost with No Liver, whose sandals slap when he walks because he has his feet on backwards.”
So begins Sofia Samatar’s novel “A Stranger in Olondria” and if it reminds one of the writing found in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series or Jack Vance at his most florid that is no bad thing. There is an excellent review of the book by Abigail Nussbaum with a recommendation that has inspired me to make a purchase.
Sounds quite like a novel H.P. Lovecraft might fancy too, were he still among us, what with his liking for Arabian Nights-inspired stories such as his Dream Cycle, also showing the influence of Ireland’s one and only Edward Moreton Drax Plunkett?
By the way, talking HPL here – I am currently writing a Gaelic novel (i nGaeilge na hAlban) connecting traditional Highland folk beliefs and aspects of Lovecraftian mythos, blended with a good pinch of Arthur Machen and M.R. James – not to forget a wee spoonie of William Hope Hodgson (who also had an Irish connection, if I am not mistaken) and set in 1920s Argyll and Edinburgh…The work is still in progress, and at quite an early stage at that (being just about to finish Ch. I), but if ye should have grown curious, check out the forthcoming work’s web pages on my trilingual website featuring all the matching music and two trailers: https://sites.google.com/site/acsailognanronathluchdaichte/na-ficheadan-fiadhaich-2-0—linn-an-jazz-ann-an-gaidhealtachd-na-h-albann—-die-wilden-zwanziger-2-0—die-bluetezeit-des-jazz-im-schottischen-hochland—-the-roaring-twenties-2-0—the-jazz-age-in-the-highlands-of-scotland