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  • Gormenghast

    ...My favourite books ever. Well, 'Titus Groan' and 'Gormenghast' although I'm partial to 'Titus Alone' sometimes - though I wasn't very keen on Titus leaving Gormenghast, even if it was the best move he ever made.

    Any fellow admirers out there? Or seen the TV series, which was fine, except they gave an excuse to why Steerpike was Evil and he was far too attractive. And I have never seen such a bright sunny Gormenghast!

    I have also seen a cracking physical theatre adaptation over here in the UK, performed by the great David Glass Ensemble. Condensed the two novels into two hours somehow, but it worked fantastically.

    Must pick up and read it for the third time..... hmmmm....


  • #2
    Great stuff, and improves on repeated readings, as it is quite difficult to get your head round the atmosphere to start with. I quite enjoyed the series, though it suffered a bit from celeb character actors who hammed it up considerably.

    Anyone know much about Mervyn Peake's stay on Sark? I spent a couple of months there a few years (?) ago, and he seemed to have created some animosity in certain quarters. Was he his own model for the arist guy?
    \"Killing me won\'t bring back your apples!\"


    • #3
      Yeah, great stuff it is. For my next read I'll find an English edition, since it's bound to better than the Swedish translation (done as it was by a known moron). I'll go against the accepted and state that my favourite probably is Titus Alone, though that might be just because Muzzlehatch is my favourite character. Besides Sepulchrave, of course.

      The series was okay, but the funniest bit was another marvelous act of translation, where "Bugger" was consistently translated to the Swedish phrase meaning literally "Up the arse!" It gave a whole new dimension to certain scenes, let me tell you...


      • #4
        Ha ha! Yes, and performed with gusto by Steve Pemberton of the League Of Gentlemen (great comedy from the UK). 'Up the arse' would have been so much better projected in his Northern tones...

        Yes, Mervyn Peake had a residency in Sark, part of an artists group. Was regarded as an eccentric, rumoured to have painted in the nude, and one of his pictures was slightly too controversial for the locals to take....

        Gormenghast has definite echoes of Sark - you're lucky to have gone there, I would love to pay a visit...


        • #5
          Yeah, it was different! Haven't been for about 16 years, but I don't imagine it's changed too much. Unfortunately, the island appeared at that time to be dominated by middle class hoteliers trying to maintain an idyll of early 20th century England in an enclosed environment. As one of their staff, that soured the place a bit, but when not working it was marvellous.

          So quiet, due to lack of motorised traffic, it just felt like a different planet. I remember going for one trip to Guernsey after about a fortnight on Sark, and being extremely disconcerted by the trials of having to cross a moderately busy road. Best of all at the end of the season, the magic mushroom crop came on (loads of horses on Sark), and we all had a great time for a few weeks, charging down vertical cliff faces in the dark, dodging the ghostly occupying German troops(!), trying to negotiate narrow paths which were covered in migrating snails, sitting awestruck at the sight of a small horse and trap with carriage lamps coming up the road, jingling as she went, sitting in Mr Pye's house (the one they used in the TV series). It was also the first hearing I got of the Deep Fix album (hi, Tim, if you're out there somewhere). I've always meant to go back sometime, just to see whether it was as nice to visit for a holiday as it felt it must have been. Thoroughly recommend it. :D
          \"Killing me won\'t bring back your apples!\"


          • #6
            I'm a philistine.

            Can't see what you like about these books?

            Please enlighten me?


            • #7
              Well, it's not everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure... :D

              Hard to put a finger on what I like about it so much. It's different. Almost like Gormenghast could exist just around the corner from some field in Kent or something, but is so remotely detached from everything else and so self-contained. I like all of the rituals and cermonies. The characters. Blimey, I'm being eloquent today, something to do with an empty stomach which needs filling very soon with toast.

              Have you read it Everydayislikeasunday? Good name by the way, although for me it's Saturday.


              • #8
                Whoops! Forgot to log in, that was my comment, mine!! :lol:


                • #9
                  Mervyn Peake

                  As Anthony Burgess points out introducing my edition of the Gormenghast trilogy, Mervyn Peake's world is unlike any other in that it exists autonomously. It doesn't rely on any esoteric knowledge or thought-through understandings of the world. It is not a parable. It is not symbolic. Each of the characters is insanely himself or herself which makes for an unusually realistic narrative. It may simply be the waning of talent from past generations but even if it is not so, Peake's writings and drawings, his own observations of the world, be they of good or evil, law or chaos have yet to be approached in accuracy. Still, accurate observation is not truth, it is not art. However, the measure of a work of fiction must, in my opinion, be whether it points to reality or not. Reading the rest of 'I While the Gods Laugh,' seeing the jacketed 'uncle jake' looking thoroughly unaware or a man, his white shirt shining, eyes now enclosed in inky caves of shadow from the glowing orb of glass which he surely rotates swiftly at the end of a dull iron rod, being able to nearly smell the rain he describes just makes me die with laughter. All he has said, in my opinion points to the health of his mind. His is a different kind of storytelling one that does not catch the reader at any point saying 'where is this going?' not even after it has been finished.


                  • #10
                    I have the same introduction in mine (Penguin, early 70s) editions and I don't know that I actually agree with it. As in the stuff about it not being parable, because it seems stuffed with parables and allusions to me. For example, the whole Bright Carvings bit seems to be a metaphor for art (including literature), and the whole collapse of the body politic of Gormenghast does seem to have echoes of the social changes of the C20th - Steerpike as the new working class, Titus as a ruling class throwing away it's responsibilities as well as priveledge and tradition, Gormenghast a once great power lost in decline and insularity.

                    Of course that is to vastly simplify - and I think there is a lot of ambivalence in there (the traditional world is portrayed as oppresive, but Steerpike seems driven only by materialism - and prepared to destroy anything or anyone that gets in the way of his progress, including the library - which again I think is symbolic).

                    It's certainly not a simplistic allegory like Animal Farm, but I don't think it's quite a self-contained world as many fantasy novels. It seems to have more to say about, and more reflection of, the modern human condition than something more explicitly rooted in reworking ancient myths (Tolkein for instance).


                    • #11
                      recently finished "Titus Groan", and it was a difficult read that took me many months because i couldnآ´t read more than a chapter or so per session. now here is my question, and first some impressions: at the beginning, i didnآ´t like it at all. then, i discovered that maybe the important thing is the way how the charakters are doing things rather than what they are doing. example: Prunesquallor and his weird allusions, or the fight between Swelter and Flay. could this be right, since the plot itself could be told in a few pages? and by the way, it is maybe very silly (and not proper also because of the overall stern situation), but the sisters which are manipulated by the unscrupulous Steerpike for his sinister plans somehow remind me of Marge Simpsonsآ´ sisters. just why is this Steerpike such calculating and will he succeed, that is one of the things that make me curious to read on. and i wonder if solemn Rottcod will enter the scene or if he stays happy in the attic.

                      so the question is if the first book was only an intruduction and if i can (now a little more experienced) probably enjoy and understand the following book. i didnآ´t read the post above due to possible spoilers, but i already read somewhere that the third book is really weird and even hard to read for Peake enthusiasts. way to go there, of course.


                      • #12
                        I read Gormenghast nآ° 1 and got to like it very much after fighting somewhat doggedly through the first 100 pages (didn't need so much detail, wanted something "to happen", was impatient, maybe). Great reading, wonderful, five Stars and all !
                        But then, before I was about to buy the second volume, I came across a website of some asshole (excuse my French, tehe) who gave away what happens to certain protagonists in the second book that I'd grown attached to, and now I'm waiting to forget it, before I go on. But that doesn't work. (That slimy self-important idiot, if I could lay my hands on him!)
                        Google ergo sum


                        • #13
                          I remember reading somewhere that the world of "Gormenghast" was partly inspired by Peake's memories of pre-revolutionary China. Not allegory, certainly, but it must be related to the whole 20th Century theme of old traditional certainties becoming open to question and being broken down by uncontrollable forces. The whole thing is also a glorious aesthetic exercise - Peake at one point near the start spends about three pages describing the progress of a beam of light across the floor. You have to slow down to get into his world; I don't suppose it's for everyone...
                          \" ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell


                          • #14
                            Yes, the extreme detail into which he goes is the only thing that could put me off, it took me about two weeks to read no 1 because I had to keep reading lighter material in between chapters. Theres no way in which I could possibly read that book in one go.

                            Didn't know it was based on Sark but now that you mention it, it seems quite relavant. They both have the same sense of undisturbable calm, I was there a few years ago and its an awesome place.

                            I'm yet to read the other two but I hear they aren't as good as the first one. :( .



                            • #15
                              I always thought they should have made a movie in the 70s with Veronique Delborg as Fuschia.