Beneath the Howling Stars

Articol publicat in:EnglishRecenzii | Aparut in:Nr. 27 ( august, 2012 )

Oliviu Craznic – … And Then the Nightmare Came at Last
Vremea Publisher House, Bucharest, 2010

Cranzic’s gothic novel is a necessary one, especially in a literature that didn’t seem to produce recognizable horror stories in all its history. However, the Transylvanian Dracula belongs to British literature. Imagine that Craznic’s novel would have been written in the late 19th century, by a contemporary of Eminescu and Macedonski. Our literature would have taken a different route, one that would have probably taken us earlier to modernity. Because horror is not facile – its powers are archetypal, fundamental. Think only of Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll, or of Nosferatu and Faust, if you will. These characters provide an alliance between subjectivity and darkness or between individualism and super-humanity. Perhaps they can be explained through a Satanic complex also, which stated that one can transcend the transcendent, that one is higher than Highest. I imagine that Cranzic’s Nightmare could have been written in the 1880’s because there is something essentially Romantic about it. But we shouldn’t forget that it is the skill of the author if the novel seems pre-modern, un-Romanian (Western), written perhaps by Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe or Baudelaire. Craznic has worked a lot to produce such an effect, creating the appearance of authenticity.

If Pasolini used fascists to reconstruct Sade’s universe and Corman’s Prince Prospero was closer to Theater of Tragedy, Nietzsche and Cioran than to Edgar Allan Poe, Craznic would use Romanticism to shape a very modern story.

I would compare The Nightmare with the Marquis de Sade’s work in the first place. In the same category I would include as influences The Masque of the Red Death by Roger Corman and Pasolini’s Salo. This is only a formal analogy, which I would call Theater of Horrors, which Craznic could not avoid because of his imposed setting: the Castle of the Last Towers. The Romanian author doesn’t follow Sade in his nihilism: his characters are not “beyond good and evil” and they do not worship the magnificence, cruelty and determinism of Nature. The Theater of Horrors, the setting where the soul and the flesh of the characters are attacked, besieged by the absolute Evil, is not only a Romantic construction, having attached to it also a modern nuance. That’s where Corman and Pasolini enter the stage: the Evil is archetypal (perhaps pre-Christian), fundamental, universal but also capable of disguising itself in a contemporary garment. If Pasolini used fascists to reconstruct Sade’s universe and Corman’s Prince Prospero was closer to Theater of Tragedy, Nietzsche and Cioran than to Edgar Allan Poe, Craznic would use Romanticism to shape a very modern story. That’s the irony of it: the story is authentic (being very visual and cinematic), seeming to belong firstly to Western literature than to Romanian fiction (if that is even possible) but the ethics and ontology of the characters belongs to the 21st century. Craznic does not reconstruct Romanticism – he reconstructs modernity through Romanticism. As I have said, the story is utterly visual: I could almost imagine a TV series like Supernatural and Vampire Diaries inspired from the Romanian horror writer’s universe. I’m not sure that Craznic would enjoy this; I’m saying that it is doable.

A second level of influence (after Sade, Enlightenment ethics and Romanticism) belongs obviously to the Gothic and Doom subculture. For instance we have a touch of My Dying Bride, for the theme of the marriage of Love and Death (to paraphrase William Blake), a theme which is hugely relevant for the European culture. To name only a few avatars of this idea: Wagner – Liebestod, Eminescu – Mortua est, Novalis – Night Hymns, etc. (Not to mention the title of a track by HIM, When Love and Death Embrace and that several albums from Lacrimas Profundere are dedicated to this principle.) Another idea used by the Swedish band Tiamat we find in Craznic is that we ourselves must fight the battle between good and evil. Some of Craznic’s characters are stronger than the omnipotent Satanic complex, showing force of character and allegiance to the warrior code. What would be Gothic in the 21st century without Moonspell’s track, Vampiria?

„You’re a beast, evil one / Above your head lays a Star/ In your heart is buried the jewel/ Of a Serpent who wished to die/ Your red long tongue has her poison/ And you will spread it as you breed/ In a unique Transylvanian dream / Conceiving the creed of all creeds”.

Perhaps the radical moral idea you can learn from Moonspell, Tiamat (and after them, from Craznic) is that the evil that defeats evil becomes good (or in Nietzsche’s deconstruction of this Hegelian theme, both better and more evil).

The Gothic subculture, the Romantic Theater of Horrors, the modernist direction of irony and pastiche are different layers of a Romanian novel with the setting in Medieval France, which seems to be written by de Sade or Choderlos de Laclos. We can also meet the mind behind the soul, the theorist behind the terrorist in Craznic’s postface, which reminds me of Poe’s Philosophy of Composition. In my opinion, Craznic’s … And Then The Nightmare Came at Last and Cristina Nemerovschi’s Satanic Blood are the best novels written in Romanian after 2010.

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