“The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”

While I slowly get a review of Henri Barbusse’s Under Fire, written, the Lovecraft series will continue.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1927.277a820dd7a0f4d98d1dd010.L

I had more tolerance for this story upon reading it a second time, after an interval of twenty-some years.

It’s obviously Lovecraft operating under the influence of Lord Dunsany in his themes, images, and language.

I’m also more patient with long passages of description which this style features.

But I can’t say I liked it all that much more. I did, though, find it more interesting.

First, given that the city Randolph Carter quests for turns out to be a transposed version of his childhood memories of Providence, Rhode Island, I’d be curious as to how long Lovecraft had this story in his head before he wrote it in 1927. I suspect that it was a metaphorical reaction to his return to Providence in 1926 after living in New York City.

Second, I find the differences between the plot and what a romantic like H. Rider Haggard or Edgar Rice Burroughs would do with the setting interesting.

Carter allies himself with the loathsome ghouls though he doesn’t much like them (his cat allies from Ulthar are more palatable). There are no women characters of any sort, much less a princess to save or run afoul of. Carter does not get involved with any political revolutions. The closest he comes is attacking the island of toad-like beasts (in which the unrealistic and formulaic device of splitting the attackers into three equal groups mirrors something similar in the attack on Joseph Curwen’s farm in Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward from the same year) but that is an attack with little permanent consequence.

This is something of a nexus for Lovecraft’s various settings.

Richard Pickman, from “Pickman’s Model” of a year earlier, shows up as a head ghoul.  Not only is the plateau of Leng mentioned (also featured in the later “At the Mountains of Madness“), but we get an actual appearance from the deity Nyarlathotep who speaks to Carter and tries to trick him into destruction while also getting him to expel the Great Ones from inhabiting the dream city he created from his memories of Providence.

I know there is a rich history of dream geographies in fantasy, but I wonder how much this work influenced the dream geography of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.


More reviews of Lovecraft related material on the Lovecraft page.

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