Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Black Spider

The Black Spider, by Jeremias Gotthelf

The NYRB Classics list is very dangerous.  I'm tempted by just about every title.  Such as The Black Spider, an early horror novel written by a Swiss German in 1842.  Also the cover is freaky scary, right?  It's an allegorical wax sculpture of Vanity.

In an idyllic and fertile Swiss valley, a family is preparing for a christening.  During the party, a guest notices an old and blackened post which has been built into the neat and well-tended window frame.  The grandfather tells the story of the post, which goes back centuries and is a cautionary tale of demonic horror, warning against the sins of pride, vanity, and ingratitude to God.

I hadn't realized when I started the story that it is a devout tale which takes demonic power quite seriously.  It's also a really Swiss German tale; you can just see all these prosperous, careful farmers with their incredibly neat houses and fields and their concern with making sure everything is just so.

An older collection, with Gorey cover!
I enjoyed the tale a lot.  It's short, just over 100 pages, and I read it quickly.  It's quite scary, but not gory, and a great example of 19th century horror.










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