“He stepped very close to me, and his eyes were terrible as he said, ‘Hear this, man from Tuscany, and remember it, because it is the truth: God was dead when He created the world’”
Buried in an isolated castle on the outskirts of a city in the Albanian mountains, the wildly ugly painter of blasphemies, Samalio Pardulus, executes works too monstrous to bear viewing, and espouses a philosophy that posits a grotesque world that reflects the ravings of a dead, grotesque god. Told through the horrified account of Messer Giacomo (a mediocre artist at once repulsed and uncontrollably fascinated by the events unfolding around him), Samalio Pardulus describes the simultaneous descent and ascent of the titular anti-hero into a passionate perversion of Catholicism in which love and madness become one, as a dark, incestuous incubus settles into a doomed family.
When it was first published, Otto Julius Bierbaum’s 1908 Gothic novella, the first of his “Sonderbare Geschichte” (weird stories), offered a Gnostic steppingstone between German Romanticism and the nascent Expressionism that had not yet taken root. It presents a vision of the grotesque not just as a way of life, but as a godly path to a higher vision, even when it appears to be but a manifestation of evil.
This first English edition includes the full set of illustrations by Alfred Kubin from the book’s 1911 German edition.
Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865–1910) was a German novelist, poet, journalist, and editor. His 1897 novel Stilpe inspired the first cabaret venue in Berlin a few years later; his last novel, the 1909 Yankeedoodlefahrt, produced a German proverb still in use today: “Humor is when you laugh anyway.”