James Jenkins: The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories. Volume 1

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James Jenkins The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories. Volume 1
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    The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories. Volume 1
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    Ужасы и Мистика / на английском языке
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The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories. Volume 1: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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What if there were a whole world of great horror fiction out there you didn't know anything about, written by authors in distant lands and in foreign languages, outstanding horror stories you had no access to, written in languages you couldn't read? For an avid horror fan, what could be more horrifying than that? For this groundbreaking volume, the first of its kind, the editors of Valancourt Books have scoured the world, reading horror stories from dozens of countries in nearly twenty languages, to find some of the best contemporary international horror stories. All the foreign-language stories in this book appear here in English for the first time, while the English-language entries from countries like the Philippines are appearing in print in the U.S. for the first time. The book includes stories by some of the world's preeminent horror authors, many of them not yet known in the English-speaking world: ​ Pilar Pedraza, 'Mater Tenebrarum' (Spain) ...

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Volume One

Edited by James D. Jenkins & Ryan Cagle

Editors’ Foreword

Most horror readers, to the extent they’ve thought about it at all, have probably always assumed that horror fiction is an Anglo-­American phenomenon. From Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe to Edgar Allan Poe and M. R. James, to H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King, horror has always been first and foremost a product of the United States and the British Isles, right? Aside from a handful of 19th-­­century French or German or Russian stories that crop up every so often in an old anthology, or the occasional name bandied about by horror fiction connoisseurs, but whose works are largely un­available and seldom read, such as the Belgian Jean Ray (1887-­1964), there’s not really much ‘international horror fiction’ to speak of. Everybody knows that, right?

But what if everybody was wrong? What if there were a whole world of great horror literature out there being produced by writers in distant lands, in books you couldn’t access and languages you couldn’t read? To an avid horror fan, what could be more horrifying than that?!

If you’re still struggling to come up with the names of international horror writers, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. Even in countries where fine horror fiction exists, it has often been ignored or forgotten. For example, in the introduction to his anthology of all-­original Dutch horror fiction, editor Robert-­Henk Zuidinga laments that ‘few Dutch-­language writers have ventured [to write in the field of the] literary horror story’[1], a judgment that neglects the psychological horror tales of Felix Timmermans (1886-­1947) (recently published by Valancourt), the Aickman-­style strange stories of Jacques Hamelink (b. 1939), and the elegant ghost stories of Kathinka Lannoy (1917-­1996), to name a few. Similarly, the popular Norwegian thriller writer André Bjerke recounts that he was approached to edit an anthology of ghost stories from around the world and a separate anthology featuring only fantastic tales from Norway. In his response to the publisher, he warned that the Norwegian ‘anthology is naturally leaner than [the international one], both in terms of quality and quantity’ and wrote that, ‘here I could wander like [explorer Henry Morton] Stanley in the undiscovered primeval forest – for no one has gone into this terrain before me’.[2] And yet, despite his initial misgivings, in the end Bjerke managed to compile an impressive volume of some two dozen fine Norwegian horror stories spanning 1840 to 1977, including one we’ve chosen for the present volume. To cite one more example, the Argentinian author of weird tales Mariana Enríquez recently declared that, ‘There is no tradition of horror or weird writing in Spanish’[3], a debatable pronouncement that would no doubt come as a surprise to the Spanish writers featured in the present volume.

The moral of the story is that if one takes the trouble to look hard enough, there’s a much larger body of world horror fiction out there than any of us would suspect. However, as Bjerke suggested, it often involves deep digging and venturing into uncharted waters.

In fact, international horror fiction has been around just about as long as it has existed in the English-­speaking world. Not long after Horace Walpole kicked off the craze for Gothic fiction with The Castle of Otranto (1764), William Beckford published his masterpiece Vathek (1786), written in French and issued in Switzerland. And in the 1790s, while Ann Radcliffe’s bestsellers like The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) were flying off British circulating library shelves, the Polish Count Jan Potocki was writing, again in French, his own Gothic masterpiece, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Ukrainian-­born Nikolai Gogol was writing tales in Russian that might be called ‘Poe-­esque’ before Poe himself began publishing stories in America. During the Romantic era, while Gothic horror was popular in England and America, it also flourished in France, Germany[4], Italy[5], Sweden[6] and Spain[7], and throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, many European countries, as well as places as far apart as Argentina[8] and Japan[9], had a tradition of what might be termed horror or weird fiction. And, as you’re about to find out from this book, horror fiction is alive and flourishing in nearly every corner of the world in the 21st century.

The impulse towards horror appears to be a universal phenomenon, running through the literatures of a great many cultures over a very long period of time. If horror fiction as we think of it today is a relatively modern concept, the trappings of horror can be found in writing from all over the world throughout all of human history. From the witch Circe, murderous Sirens and man-­eating Cyclops in Homer’s The Odyssey to the Bible’s stories of demons and devils, to the Roman writer Pliny the Elder’s accounts of werewolves, it is not hard to find the precursors of modern-­day horror in ancient texts from around the world.

But this isn’t the place or time for a full exploration of horror throughout the ages or throughout the world.[10] The point we’re trying to make is that horror is neither an exclusively modern phenomenon nor an exclusively Anglophone one, and moreover – and what might be most surprising – some of the world’s best horror fiction has come (and continues to come) from elsewhere.

Yet although there is a lot of high-­quality horror fiction continuing to be produced around the world, very little of it is being published for English-­speaking readers. There have been a couple of encouraging exceptions in recent years – Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s internationally bestselling witch novel Hex (2016) and French writer Grégoire Courtois’ harrowing The Laws of the Skies (2019) come to mind – but for the most part, on the rare occasions when foreign horror is published for an American or British audience, it’s an isolated appearance of a short story in an obscure periodical, or publication online in some little-­frequented corner of the web.

But even if not much foreign horror has made its way into U.S. bookshops, it’s a big deal in its home countries. Did you know that in the tiny principality of Andorra, nestled in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, there is an annual government-­sponsored competition open to all the country’s residents, with the writer of the best horror story earning 600 euros? Or that Bulgaria and Denmark have active horror writers’ associations? (In Denmark there’s so much horror fiction being published that they even give out annual awards for the best; one of the winners is featured in this book.) In tiny Iceland, and in the Spanish region of Galicia, publishers have launched versions of the seminal Weird Tales magazine in their local languages. In Catalonia, one small publisher annually chooses four prominent Cata­lan authors to lock up in a reputedly haunted castle for a weekend to write horror tales, then publishes the results in a yearly volume. In recent years, horror anthologies have even begun to crop up in languages most people have never heard of, like Western Frisian and Corsican.[11] The closer you look, the more you find that horror fiction really is everywhere.

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