Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reading Challenge Book 13: The History of Caliph Vathek


I thought this was a vampire story?

The History of Caliph Vathek
William Beckford

Vathek is the story of the Ninth Caliph of the Abassides and his fondness of excesses. He craves excess of pleasure, be it the pleasure of the mind or of the flesh. When the Giaour promises him riches and power, Vathek commits unspeakable crimes in their pursuit. He gets his in the end (spoiler!).

I picked up Vathek forever ago for free on Kindle, and I swear I've read it in the past. I do not, however, hold that to be true now that I've just finished the novel.

There are no chapter breaks. The story goes on and on, and even in places where a chapter break would make sense, there is simply a new paragraph. This makes reading it more laborious than necessary.

I was under the impression that this was a very early vampire story, but I found nothing in the text to support this claim. Vathek is a man of voracious appetites, but he's no vampire. His mother, Carathis, is closer to a vampire than the eponymous Vathek, but I would hesitate before giving her such a label. She is wicked, through and through, but a vampire? Giaour could almost be one, but it turns out he's a Jinn.

Though disappointed that this isn't a vampire story, it is a work of Gothic literature. It is also an example of Orientalism (a literary obsession with all things Oriental). As Gothic literature it was quite enjoyable. There are some memorable scenes and lines in the story, so it's worth the read.

Ok, on to the next one!


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