Camille Mauclair's The Frail Soul and Other Stories was published by Snuggly Books in December 2017.
Information about Camille Mauclair and The Frail Soul and Other Stories:
"There are, Monsieur, the man with the singular eyes said to me, ill-intentioned people who look at me with an impertinent pity and claim that I am mad. They will tell you that, but do not believe them; I have pronounced that word in order to destroy in you immediately the striking impression that it produces. Those people are wicked; they were my friends once, but now they spy on me and say perfidious things about me, because they are jealous. And I shall tell you with what reason: they are jealous of not having understood their soul as well as me. There are people who cannot see and who wish ill on others because of that; but not everyone can sense things in the same way, can they, Monsieur? One must be reasonable."
Camille Mauclair's Les Clefs d'or, originally published in 1897, is one of the most significant Symbolist prose collections of the fin de siècle. The present volume, The Frail Soul and Other Stories, contains eleven pieces from this masterwork, brilliantly translated into English for the first time by Brian Stableford.
"Camille Mauclair" was the pseudonym of Séverin Faust (1872-1945), whose roman à clef Le Soleil es morts (1898) is an affectionate memoir of Mallarmé’s mardis, featuring many of the writers still in attendance in the 1890s. He was more prolific as an art critic and music critic than a poet or writer of fiction, and eventually became a specialist in non-fiction, but Les Clefs d’or (Ollendorf 1897), from which the contents of the present volume have been taken, is one of the most significant Symbolist prose collections of the fin de siècle. The material from Les Clefs d’or not in the present volume were published under the title The Virgin Orient and Other Stories (Black Coat Press 2016).
A REVIEW OF CAMILLE MAUCLAIR'S THE FRAIL SOUL AND OTHER STORIES
Camille Mauclair's The Frail Soul and Other Stories is one of the most compelling short story collections I've ever read, because it's a magnificent collection of stories that are marked by such elements as love, death, illness, melancholy and loneliness. Because I love beautifully written stories and enjoy reading good prose, I was impressed by this collection and its contents.
The stories in this collection contain elements that range from literary fiction to speculative fiction. Depending on the reader, it's possible to classify them either as literary stories or as literary fantasy stories, because they can be perceived in different ways.
This collection contains the following stories:
- The Frail Soul
- The Triumph in the Darkness
- King Cambyses
- Ilse of the Geraniums
- The Evil Hour
- The Illusion
- The Song of the Eyes
- A Fragment on Salome
I was deeply fascinated by all of these stories, because each of them features beautiful prose and the happenings are captivating. I think that everybody who has ever read literary fiction or literary speculative fiction will find them compelling and rewarding, because they will touch and impress many readers.
Depictions of the frailty of human life can be found in many of these stories, and beauty and suffering are united in them in a stunning way. I was impressed by the author's way of writing about these things, because the stories touched me in a way that only few other stories can.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
The Frail Soul:
- In this story, a man tells another man about his life and his soul.
- What the man told about his soul came as a surprise to me, because I didn't expect it. It was intriguing to read about what he revealed, because he seemed to show delicate signs of madness.
- An excellent story with a fascinatingly unsettling undertone.
The Triumph in the Darkness:
- In this story, the King of Sogdiana comes back home as a blind man.
- It was fascinating to read about what the King did, because he went to the tombs to lie there.
- A well written story with a good ending.
- A story about King Cambyses who accidentally wounds himself with a scimitar.
- I was fascinated by the prophecy, according to which the King would die in Ecbatana, because it made the King uneasy, for he knew that his time had come.
- This wonderful story feels like a dark fairy-tale for adults.
- A story about a young man who becomes intrigued about a young woman living in the neighbouring habitation.
- This is a beautifully told tragic tale about unrequited love that ends in the most heartbreaking way.
- An excellent and well told story that will stick to the reader's mind.
- In this story, a man and his lover, Tylea, have been touched by the autumn.
- The author's descripions of the September landscape are stunningly beautiful and evocative.
- This story features some of the best and most atmospheric depictions of autumn I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
- In this story, Luce-Évelyne suffers from illness and has come to a sunny place to be cured, but she feels that the sun doesn't care about her.
- The author writes beautifully and touchingly about how Luce-Évelyne falls out with the sun and welcomes the shade into her life and soul.
- This short story is a memorable exploration of melancholy, illness and death.
Ilse of the Geraniums:
- A story about Ilse who finds a body of a child in the water.
- The author writes well about how Ilse meets Tine and what they do when Ilse finds the cadaver.
- An excellent and atmospheric story involving flowers and death.
The Evil Hour:
- A story about a writer called Luc Deraines who has just finished writing a novel.
- In this story, the author writes perfectly about how the protagonist feels anguish over having nothing left to write, because he has poured his life into his novels.
- A well written story with intriguing depictions of what it feels like for a writer to have reached the end.
- In this story, a man suffers from being abandoned by a woman, because she left with another man.
- The depictions of how the man feels about the woman and what her leaving with another man has done to him are effective.
- An excellent story with a perfect ending.
The Song of the Eyes:
- In this story, Irène asks her lover to tell her about what he knows about the eyes.
- A beautifully written story about various eyes ranging from the eyes of women in the summer to the eyes of a widow.
A Fragment on Salome:
- This story is an interesting and surprisingly thoughtful meditation on Salome and what she is and how she is perceived by others.
- I found this story captivating and thought-provoking.
- An excellent and well written story that reads a bit like an essay.
After I finished reading these stories, I found myself thinking about them and their contents. I have to admit that I am amazed at how beautiful and atmospheric they are, because each of them is something special. I fully understand why this collection is considered to be one of the most significant Symbolist prose collections of the fin de siècle, because it's excellent.
The translation by Brian Stableford is outstanding, because the prose is of the highest possible quality. I'm honestly amazed at his ability to translate French prose to English, because he does it brilliantly. He has paid utmost attention to details and has managed to convey the atmosphere and the beauty of the original stories to English-speaking readers. He truly excels at translating this kind of fiction.
The cover image, Partout des prunelles flamboient (Odilon Redon, 1888), looks great and wonderfully artistic. It fits this collection perfectly.
If you love beautifully written prose and are in need of good stories, I strongly urge you to read Camille Mauclair's The Frail Soul and Other Stories, because it's one of the best collections of its kind. This short story collection should have a permanent place on the bookshelf of everybody who appreciates quality fiction.