This week’s weird fiction selection.
Review: “A Twilight”, Michel de Ghelderode, translated by George MacLennan, 1941.
This is the sort of weird fiction with almost no plot and long on an atmosphere built by the narrator describing his emotional states and judicious use of metaphor. No monsters here. To analyze it closely is equivalent to understand a butterfly by slicing the wings up.
It’s a short enough story you can read it at the link.
The action is as follows.
The narrator wakes up on a rainy day. It’s been raining for a long time. His room is damp and musty. He has a premonition that the world will be “destroyed by water” (though no biblical allusions are made to Noah’s Flood).
He walks about a strangely deserted city with not even any lamps lit. The city seems lethargic.
The sun breaks through the clouds at twilight.
The narrator goes to the church of St. Nicholas. His sense of trepidation increases in the deserted church. He stumbles against a figure of Christ that has fallen from a column.
The “dislocated church” fills up with an “amber vapor” and seems to remake itself. A comforting drone starts up.
Night falls, streetlights come on, the streets are now crowded with people. “The world smelled carnally after the deluge”
It’s almost as if the narrator has sensed a coming apocalypse which is avoided or somehow enters into a world where it is impending.
Yet the story ends on a disquieting note.
Those crowds are likened to herds of cattle going to the slaughterhouse, their blood
“flowing in torrents in order to appease, who knows which, the wrath of the gods or the hunger of men . . . “.
So, while the world didn’t end, the narrator ends his story on a note of foreboding, with a new consciousness, a new way of viewing the world, perhaps at last perceiving things as they are and a disaster to come.
Given that it was published in 1941 and de Ghelderode was Belgium one can rightly suspect the anxieties of war and occupation at work.