Friday, 10 October 2014

Vathek - William Beckford

Another Gothic novel, this one from 1786. It has more of an exotic flavour than The Castle of Otranto, being set in a fictional Eastern land at an undisclosed time in history, ruled over by Caliph Vathek.

Vathek is an insatiably curious ruler, so when a hideous stranger comes to him promising to reveal to him antiques of incredible power and rarity, he’s intrigued and offers the man the entirety of his treasury for these valuables. After making the trade, however, the stranger angers him and is thrown out, leaving him with a growing obsession.

The previously admired and loved ruler gives up all interest in ruling his land, instead abusing his power to commit acts of atrocity demanded by the stranger as entrance requirements to his palace of wonders. We see Vathek’s transformation from an eccentric ruler to a corrupted madman and the ruin he brings to all around him.

This was an interesting story about the triumph of ambition over morality, heavily flavoured by exotic eastern imagery and religion.

Next up: The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

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