The theatrical nature and content of Sologub’s The Little Demon had me envisioning a play on the stage for the first third of the novel. Hilarious dialogue, telling imagery, and one of the most paranoid and depraved characters in fiction made visualizing this text taking place physically before me easy. For much of this novel, I thought that Sologub would surely continue to circuitously loop Peredenov’s mad antics into infinity. He “loved nothing and no one, and as a result the real world could only have a depressing effect on him.” Depression surmounts as his extreme paranoia builds and he believes that his friends intend to poison him, his lover wants to shoot him, colleagues are jealous of his success, and children want to have sex with him.
The motif of arctic exploration is not unique during the Romantic period in which many authors, such as Mary Shelley and Coleridge, utilize the setting of a sub-zero climate and its dangers to highlight the macabre and mysterious nature of their plots and characters. In Wilkie Collins’s short story “The Devil’s Spectacles” the artic setting is reminiscent of such Romantic literary locations where characters are confronted with what they fear most — in this case, the devil and the dark nature of humanity. Septimus Notman propels the tale by admitting on his deathbed to being a cannibal through eating his dead friend during an arctic adventure to save himself from starvation. Upon his contemplation appears the devil with a pair of spectacles for Notman, which will give him the extra push needed to turn him from borderline sinful to full-fledged brute. These spectacles allow their wearer to “read everything in [one’s] mind, plain as print” and must be passed on to a different man before Notman can die.
I have been enjoying — very much — reading a variety of works about portraiture (but who has time with a newborn baby?!). My intention has been to write a series of posts about this theme in literature.
While reading, however, I wanted to pause and address a thread from a past series of mine: the devil in literature. I find, not surprisingly, that there are many intersections between the portrait and the devil in the texts I have read.
After much effort I finally finished Mikail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (Russian, 1967), which a student recommended to me years ago when she heard that I was interested in exploring how and why the “devil” becomes female in literature. This, my seventh installment, presents what may seem at first a challenge to the rule that the devil is feminized or female, at least at some point, in most texts.
I generally enjoy reading Russian literature of the 20th century but my first dance with Bulgakov had me shooting in all kinds of directions. I was enamored with his satirical imagery that often bordered on surrealism. At times he painted such vivid pictures of the most ridiculous acts and people that I found myself pausing to imagine these images as they would appear in a film. Maybe one directed by Maya Duren or David Lynch.
I waited a long time to get my hands on Nawal El Saadawi’s novel The Innocence of the Devil (Egyptian, 1994), I was interested in reading a novel by a contemporary Arab feminist/doctor/writer, and I also thought that this novel would be a nice addition to my exploration of the devil in literature. This review is the sixth installment of my “The Devil is a Woman” series.
“Um,” says Andrea Sachs, that boring and undeveloped accessory of the “devil,” Miranda Priestly who is the editor of Runway fashion magazine. “Um,” Sachs repeats as prominent literary people insist how eloquent she is. “Um,” shouts Andrea Sachs as I turn another page in a novel that appears to have very little to do with the devil or with Prada.
The Devil Wears Prada (American, 2003) by Lauren Weisberger is a novel that I have been considering for my World Literature class on the devil in literature (and includes novels that I have been exploring in my “The Devil is a Woman, but only Momentarily” blog series). Having finally gotten around to reading it, I will most likely never teach this text but it does make an interesting installment in my blog series as I continue to grapple with the devil and gender representation in literature.
That I have named this very blog after Marie Corelli — and her “electric creed” in the novel A Romance of Two Worlds — speaks to a fact that I don’t really need to reveal: I am in love with Marie Corelli. The pleasure that reading her books brings me is one that can only be had through reading Corelli. But I will save my love-song for Corelli for another post (you’re welcome!).
Having just finished her novel The Sorrows of Satan (British, 1895) reminded me of my blog series, “The Devil is a Woman, but only Momentarily.” This is my fourth installment in the series.