“The House on the Borderland: On Humanity and Love”

Review: “The House on the Borderland: On Humanity and Love”, Henrik Harksen, 2014.

Voices from the Borderland
Cover by Daniele Serra

Harksen uses a theory from literary critic Martha C. Nussbaum that the style a story is written in can be used to gain insight into its meanings. She has three criteria for the style: how general is it, how precise is it in describing places and people, and what explanations are given for events.

Harksen argues that, contrary to many critics of Hodgson who maintain some of his stories work despite their style, Hodgson’s style tells us things. Here he looks at the subject of love. There are three subjects of the narrator’s love: the formal affection he gives his sister and about whom get little, his beloved dog Pepper where things are much more specific, and his romantic love for a long dead woman.

Hodgson uses general language, most drawn from the tradition of the Gothic, to describe the house. However, the language gets more specific when the swine men show up and when describing the narrator’s visions.

Harksen argues that what has been called “commonplace sentimentality” is essential for the story.

Love is what holds the narrator in the realm of humanity, despite everything else going on. And this love — exemplified most clearly by the elusive, romantic love, but certainly also by the love connecting him to the faithful dog and his sister — is deeply rooted in the Gothic landscape surrounding the house . . . Love is, in fact, at the heart of the story.

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