Jean Lorrain's Masks in the Tapestry was published by Snuggly Books in July  2017.

Information about Jean Lorrain:

Jean Lorrain (1855-1906) was the pseudonym of Paul Alexandre Martin Duval. He was one of the leading figures of the Decadent Movement and the author of numerous novels, volumes of poetry and short stories. At one point he was probably the highest paid journalist in France. Though mostly remembered today for his famous duel with Marcel Proust, he might be seen as the true chronicler of the fin-de-siècle. His short story collections Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker and The Soul-Drinker and Other Decadent Fantasies were previously published by Snuggly Books.

Information about Masks in the Tapestry:

Jean Lorrain, one of the leading figures of the Decadent Movement, was a master of the conte cruel. Presented here, for the first time in English, are ten such tales: stories of princesses and princes; mock-fairytales that seem to pervert the innocence of their settings with a triumphant immorality, plunging the reader into an atmosphere of voluptuousness and sensuality.

“Whoever has not believed as a child,” wrote the author, “will not dream as a young man; it is necessary to think, on the threshold of life, of weaving beautiful tapestries of dreams in order to decorate our abode as winter approaches; and beautiful dreams, even when faded, make the sumptuous tapestries of December.”

A REVIEW OF JEAN LORRAIN'S MASKS IN THE TAPESTRY

Jean Lorrain's Masks in the Tapestry is one of the most beautifully written and mesmerising short story collections published during the recent years. It's a fascinating reading experience to everybody who loves classic and old-fashioned stories. It's pure pleasure for readers who want their stories with a pinch of immorality and sensuality, because it contains stories in which innocence is marred by sensual, voluptuous and twisted elements.

I was very impressed by this collection. I found each of the stories excellent and was instantly captivated by their beauty and was charmed by the high quality of the prose. It's a shame that collections like this one are rare treasures, because they're wonderful entertainment to readers who love quality stories and good prose.

This collection serves as a perfect entry point into Jean Lorrain's fiction, because it contains beautifully written stories that showcase the author's writing skills and literary output in a splendid way. If you've never read anything by Jean Lorrain, I strongly recommend taking a look at this collection, because you won't be sorry to have read it. If you're already familiar with Jean Lorrain's fiction, you'll be in for a wonderful reading experience due to the cruel and unexpected nature of the stories.

The collection contains the following stories:

- Futile Virtue
- The Prince in the Forest:
 1. The Guardian
 2. Hic Felitas
- The Tale of the Reapers
- The Old Duke's Daughters
- Melusine Enchanted
- Mandosiane Captive
- Oriane Vanquished
- Neighilde
- Princess Neigefleur
- Grimaldine with the Golden Hair

These stories appealed to my taste in literary speculative fiction and stimulated my imagination. The atmosphere in them is irresistibly alluring, strange and occasionally seducingly macabre, and - what's best - the lyrical prose is delightfully rich and stunningly beautiful. The compelling combination of beauty and cruelty makes them unique.

These stories wonderfully alter and pervert the seemingly innocent feel of their fairytale-like setting, because they're seducingly sensual reading experiences filled with lush and unforgettable imagery. They're mock-fairytales that transform well-known elements into a delightfully twisted and unexpected form, but always true to their roots which lie in old-fashioned fairytale storytelling.

Elements of beauty, tragedy, joy, sadness and fairytale can be found in these stories in varying degrees. When you begin to read this collection, you'll find yourself enticed by the sudden cruel twists of the stories. This collection perfectly demonstrates the different nuances of the conte cruel and leads readers into its darkly beautiful world. I found the cruel aspects of the stories to be effective and satisfyingly unsettling.

Here's a bit more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:

Futile Virtue:

- A story about a young man, Bertram, who is the fruit of a sin. Bertram has made a vow to find the knight to whom he owes his life.
- It was fascinating to read about how the young man was deliberately raised in a harsh and pious way so that he could become a tool of vengeance.
- This story has a fascinatingly sad ending.

The Prince in the Forest:
 1. The Guardian
 2. Hic Felitas

- An achingly beautiful and fascinating story about a Prince who wanders in the forest and meets its guardian, Dolor.
- This story is one of the most beautifully written fairytale-like stories I've ever read, because the lyrical prose highlights the nuances of the story in an excellent way.

The Tale of the Reapers:

- A story about Raymondin who follows a great white wall and sees Death and Amour at work.
- I found myself enthralled by the strange beauty of this story.

The Old Duke's Daughters:

- A wonderfully told story about the Duke's three daughters who stand at the window.
- I like the author's way of describing what happens in the city.

Melusine Enchanted:

- A story about Raymondin de Lusignan who dreams of the beautiful Melusine who has been expelled from her city and transformed into a monstrous hydra by the Fay.
- A charmingly old-fashioned story.

Mandosiane Captive:

- A story about the beatiful Princess Mandosiane who is captive in a crypt.
- The fate of the princess is intriguingly grim, but also strangely liberating, because she has been a captive for a long time.
- An excellent and well-told short story.

Oriane Vanquished:

- A story about Oriane and an incorruptible hero who is coming to vanquish her.
- This story depicts a certain kind of a clash between paganism and Christianity.
- The descriptions about the forest and its flora and fauna are simply amazing. It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of reading anything like this, because the author's descriptions are enthrallingly beautiful and evocative.

Neighilde:

- In this story, little Peter is asleep in Neighilde's icy palace where winter is eternal.
- I think that readers who are familiar with classic fairytales will love this story and find it fascinating.

Princess Neigefleur:

- A story about Queen Imogene and Princess Neigefleur who has been placed in a coffin of glass by forest gnomes.
- This story has remarkable resemblances to the fairytale about Snow White.
- I found the fate of the Queen satisfyingly bleak.

Grimaldine with the Golden Hair:

- In this story, Regnier Grimaldi, Sire de Monaco, becomes enamored by the beauty of a woman called Isabelle Asinari who has beautiful hair.
- A fascinating story about beauty and its admiration.

I'm honestly amazed at the richness of the translation, because Brian Stableford has been able to translate this collection in a rich manner that does justice to the original stories. The translator clearly seems to love the original texts and has done his best to translate them as perfectly and atmospherically as possible.

It's great that these stories have been made available for English-speaking readers, because each of them is something special. I think that everybody who loves well written fiction and appreciates the finer points of literary fiction will love this collection and its florid prose.

If you're a fan of literary fiction and enjoy beautifully written stories and classic fairytales, you owe it to yourself to read Jean Lorrain's Masks in the Tapestry as soon as possible, because it's a unique and enticing reading experience. Trust me when I say that you won't be disappointed by it. If you allow yourself to be seduced by this collection, you'll be rewarded with enchanting stories.

Highly recommended!

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