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Vathek

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3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  2,789 ratings  ·  164 reviews
Even weirder than the Gothic excesses of Horace Walpole's Castle Of Otranto, even wilder than Matthew Lewis' The Monk, William Beckford's Vathek remain the most extreme example of English 18th century literature, a crawling meditation on the transgressions of the depraved. Witches, demons, human sacrifices and other spectral horrors mark the progress of Vathek, ninth calip ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Creation Books (first published 1786)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rabindranauth
Vathek is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read.

It’s the tale of the wealthy Caliph Vathek, an individual who at times reads like a flat out parody of a decadent Middle Eastern ruler. In addition to having five palaces full of his toys, he has a tower built all the way into the sky just so he can look at the stars, and is also the wielder of an evil eye that kills anyone who looks at it. No, I’m not referring to the basilisk, I’m talking about the Caliph Vathek.
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Paul
There is a story behind my purchasing this book. I occasionally bid on book lots at the local auction house. Recently I bid on a box of books which looked rather interesting. I managed to transpose the numbers and ended up with a different box of books, most of which I didn’t want. However there were seven folio society book from the late 1950s and early 1960s, which I have kept (sending the others back to auction). This was one of the folio society books.
I knew little about Vathek or William Be
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Matthieu
Underground palaces! Concealed didacticism! Homosexual indiscretions!
Henry Avila
Caliph Vathek is the ruler in Baghdad and its large Empire, in the Middle East and Africa...Grandson of the illustrious Harun al -Rashid.Of the Arabian Nights fame(this is fiction, folks , with only a very vague resemblance to a real man, so don't bother to look him up on Wikipedia). Being the 9th century,the Caliph has absolute power.Also an evil eye, deadly when angered.As a lot of his poor victims discovered too late. Nobody looks at Vathek's fearsome eye, when the Caliph is in a very bad moo ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I seem to have embarked on a re-exploration of the gothic genre. After finishing a re-read of The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole a couple of days back, Last night I finished Vathek by William Beckford, a novel which also stems from the trend for Orientalist fiction which played upon the exoticism of an imagined Arabic setting, largely inspired by translations of The Thousand And One Nights.

It's the story of the Caliph Vathek, a sensualist and seeker of knowledge whose quest for novelty lead
...more
Jack
Postmodernism has nothing on Vathek. An absolutely bizarre Gothic tale, rich in Orientalism and deviltry. You may think that the modern era has corned the market in strange, difficult texts, but there is truly nothing new under the sun. Vathek is stranger than strange.
Sesana
What a bizarre book. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I didn't hate it. The title character is a generically Arabian sultan who enters into a deal with a djinn that ends as well as one might expect. Which is to say, not at all. Vathek's descent is told in loosely connected episodes, with some very surreal scenes included. Incredibly odd plot aside, it's actually written fairly well. Miles better than The Castle of Otranto, at least. It's delightfully over the top, of course, but no ...more
Bill  Kerwin

An odd book, and not a completely successful one. I cannot deny it a wealth of ironic observation and an elegant style, but I believe the author indulges his hobbies and obsessions--his Orientalism, his ephebophilia, his loathing of his mother and other termagants--to an extent that distorts this tale of sensuality, pride and and destruction instead of informing and enriching it.

The last twenty pages or so, however, that relate Prince Vathek's damnation in the underground realm of the angel Ebl
...more
Kam
So plodding, this book. It was painful to read. Even in Starbucks with wonderful smells of cinnamon and chocolate wafting around. Page by page, I trudged on.
Some great imagery, but at great expense!
K.D. Absolutely
May 21, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aaron Vincent, whose YA taste I respect most
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books and 1001 Books You Must Read Before You DIe (2006 to 2010 editions)
Shelves: 501, 1001-core, classics
Surprisingly quite an interesting read! The plot is thick, interesting characters and definitely written by somebody with a very rich imagination! Wiki says that Mr. Beckford, at the young age of 21, wrote this straight 3 days and 2 nights in French in 1782. Now, after 228 years and the story is still interesting and can put to shame the contemporary fantasy gothic novels we have.

The character of Caliph Vathek, still from Wiki, is inspired by the life of Al-Wathiq ibn Mutasim (Arabic الواثق), an
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Paul
Vathek was Caliph in the area of approximately present-day Iraq, at some unknown time in the past. He was generally a fair person, but woe unto him who got Vathek angry. He lived in an immense castle, with the absolute finest of everything. One day, a very strange, and very ugly, man stood before his throne. He had a hideous laugh, but didn’t speak. He showed Vathek all manner of rare and exotic items, including sabers inscribed in an unknown language, inscriptions which kept changing from day t ...more
John David
William Beckford, the author of “Vathek,” led a rather remarkable life – so remarkable, in fact, that reviewers and critics are left baffled at how to interpret it other than reading it as a sort of fantastic confabulation of his life. He was born in 1760, son of the two-time Lord Mayor of London; at the tender age of ten years, his father died and left him one of the richest men in the entire country. This allowed him to pursue his interests in art, architecture, and travel, all of which he did ...more
Tim Pendry
The 1970 (revised 1983) Oxford World Classics Editions of Beckford's 'Vathek' of 1782 is almost exhaustingly as well as exhaustively scholarly with not only the final 1816 text as the basis of the book but a full range of notes from the original.

The work is quite slight in many ways but it has to be granted its originality as a quasi-Gothic piece of orientalism and as a major influence on subsequent fantastic literature.

Beckford himself had the potential to be great but he was not only born far
...more
Daniel
I picked this up expecting to blow through it in a few days and soon found myself lost in its dense passages. The story is fairly straightforward--the titular Caliph wants to indulge in every pleasure available on this world--yet the path it takes to its end is serpentine and bizarre. The supernatural arrives and leaves with barely any introduction; major events take place in a sentence or two; historical anecdotes abound, buttressed by footnotes that one can turn to in the back of the book (as ...more
Jenny Macdonald
A cross between a gothic Pilgrim's Progress in reverse and The Thousand and one Nights it tells the tale of a Caliph, Vathek, and his mother, Carathis, who are cruel and ruthless in their search for knowledge and supernatural powers. A visiting merchant, a Giaour, attends Vathek and promises him all knowledge and power if he works for the Devil, Eblis. Of course to do this involves abandoning their faith Islam, living a debauched life and murdering a large quantity of innocent people. Vathek doe ...more
Linda
The Caliph, Vathek, and his mother, Carathis, are cruel and ruthless in their search for knowledge and supernatural powers. Listening to Giaour, who claims to be an Indian merchant and has earned Vathek's attention, they abandon their faith, Islam, to live in sin and murder innocent people to sacrifice to Giaour - who work for the Devil, Eblis, and whose name means blasphemer - to be able to achieve these powers. Of course, it's not that easy.

Written in 1786, by the English author William Beckfo
...more
Vlad
Before discussing the unique tale Vathek, let us briefly examine its equally interesting author, William Thomas Beckford, especially since it's important in understanding the book.

Born in 1760 in London, Beckford was one of the richest men in the world, largely due to an inheritance that included vast property holdings in England as well as two enormous sugar plantations in Jamaica. (Manned by roughly 1500 slaves) He had a legendary art collection that is still prominently displayed in many mus
...more
Lada
A Gothic novel about a Caliph from Bagdad and his love of extravagance, his luxuriousness,lavishness in enjoyment, which was larger than life, transgressing the borders of the human. A macabre romance, which goes literally to the bottom of oneself, to the horror of self-knowledge. The novel challenges everything,i.e. each human tacit valour to go beyond to the strange, mysterious and supernatural. For instance, the mother-son relation is strained , placed on a different level of intercommunicati ...more
Jennefer
A fun old Gothic with a tale of the Arabian nights sort of feel. We have a power and knowledge hungry leader with a weakness for food and women, and his even more ambitious astrology reading mother (sort of McBeth-ish, only mother not wife). Then there is the Giaour with a thirst for young pretty young boys (as food, not for sex), a huge tower of babel sort of thing with a floor dedicated to each of the senses, little dwarfs that pinch to death, a young couple in love (cousins) who are tricked i ...more
Tyler
Vathek is a very strange Gothic, Oriental fantasy about a surfeitous Caliph that gets duped into thinking his journey to inherit the treasures of the Subterranean Palace of Fire (or something like that)—what we would call "Hell"—will result in great power and eternal happiness. It's well-written and very ornate (very Rococo), but the characters are pretty shallow, really, although the Caliph’s mother, a Saracen queen of sorts, does have a bit more depth than the rest of the cast, in a creepy sor ...more
Jason Katz
Here we have a short and very readable book about a Middle Eastern prince, Vathek, who loves his food, and his gold, and his women, and his wine; he's built five separate palaces for the indulging of each of the five senses (just to give you an idea of how physical and base and blasphemously un-Muslim his personal pleasures are.) The story gets going when he's promised supernatural knowledge and power by some sort of demon. The book (more like a novella) follows the prince's attempts, both in hi ...more
sabisteb
Kalif Vathek lebt unter der Fuchtel seiner Mutter Carathis. Carathis ist nicht nur Griechin, nein, sie ist auch Schwarzmagierin. Wahrscheinlich ihr zuliebe baut Vathek einen riesigen Turm von dem aus die Bewohner seiner Stadt wie Ameisen aussehen (wie er da hoch kommt ohne Aufzug sei mal dahingestellt). Im UG dieses Turms lagert seine Mutter ihre Okkulten Gegenstände, wie Mumien, Gifte und dergleichen.
Eines Tages kommt ein Kaufmann in die Stadt, der ganz seltsame, phantastische, magische Waffen
...more
Fil
Une histoire peu intéressante avec une morale bien ordinaire et peuplée de personnages unidimensionels. Difficile à lire par moments, les événement me semblais un peu trop pêle mêle et sans but. Vathek (le personnage et le roman) m'a déçu, c'est tout.

Un jour je m'y essayerais en Anglais, peut-être que...
Mairéad (is exploring a floating city)
1.5 stars.

This was a terrible mess. I'm not sure whether I'm at fault or it's Beckford's way of writing this or not, but this one most certainly frustrated me greatly. Drowning my in hug paragraphs where at times more than one person would speak mixed with lots having at once. There's no chapters (which might have helped the pacing a bit, but alas). I just grew more and more irritated as I read onwards. Only understand bits and pieces here and there and the occasional paragraph.

I'm aware that Be
...more
Raúl
'Se anunciaba la oración de la aurora cuando Carathis y Vathek ascendieron los innumerables escalones que llevaban a la cima de la torre, donde permanecieron algún tiempo aunque la mañana se presentaba triste y lluviosa. Aquel sombrío resplandor agradaba a sus malvados corazones'.

Cielos teñidos de rojo sangre, maldad y extrañeza, un cuadro tenebroso coloreado con motivos orientales. Vathek es una fantasía macabra publicada como un 'cuento árabe' e inspirada en 'Las mil y una noches', tan exitoso
...more
Hollis
This book is an important landmark in Gothic fiction and there are some wonderfully over-blown descriptions sprinkled throughout. The only downside is that it is really, really boring.
Mel
After reading The Moor I was in the mood for some more “Orientalist” gothic novels, Vathek was the first Oriental Gothic novel (according to the blurb on the back) and I thought it would be quite fun and it was. It was quite short, especially by gothic novel standards only 160 pages but I think this worked in its favour. It had fewer diversions and stayed focused more closely on the plot than other novels in this genre. The start of the book was very Orientalist in its descriptions of the pleasu ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in April 2000.

William Beckford was an eccentric millionaire; his short novel Vathek is an eccentric novel. It is apparently a morality tale based on some of the stories in the Arabian Nights. It tells the story of Vathek, an imaginary descendant and successor of Caliph Haroun al Raschid. He has two passions: for decadent luxury (vast feasts, beautiful concubines) and arcane knowledge. When an evil looking Indian magician visits his court, his desire for knowl
...more
Max Fincher
William Beckford's novella, Vathek, was originally written in French, and published in a pirated translation in 1785, by Samuel Henley, an expert on Oriental literature and myth, who assisted Beckford with his research. Beckford himself published the novel in England in 1786.
Vathek is a hybrid mish-mash of genres: the eighteenth-century taste for all things 'Oriental' (culminating in the building of the Prince Regent's pavillion in Brighton in the 1810s); a gothic novel; a fantasy, and autobiogr
...more
Eadie
This book is considered to be the 1,002 fable in the Arabian Nights Tales. It was interesting but fantasy is not one of my favorite genres. The narrative of Vathek uses a third person, omniscient, in the sense that he knows what is happening everywhere. The novel, while it may lend itself to be divided into chapters, is one complete manuscript without pause. It's humor is entertaining in some parts but it does drag in the middle. If you like fantasy type fables then I would recommend this book f ...more
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La Stamberga dei ...: Vathek e Gli episodi di William Beckford 1 4 Oct 25, 2013 10:03AM  
Worst Book You Have Ever Read. 2 44 May 05, 2012 01:38AM  
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  • The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
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Vathek and Other Stories Vathek with the Episodes of Vathek Episodes of Vathek I grandi romanzi dell'orrore: Wathek di Beckford - Il Dr. Jekyll e Mr. Hyde di Stevenson - Dracula di Bram Stoker - La casa sull'abisso di Hodgson - Il Golem di Meryink - Stirpe di Lupo di Munn - Le montagne della follia di Lovercraft Memorias biográficas de pintores extraordinarios

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“No course was open to me save to leap, with eyes self-bound, into the yawning abyss of the future.” 4 likes
“Shortly after we were in bed I began my story, but made it so absurd, so long, and so tiresome, that, as my intention was, I sent her to sleep, and should have gone to sleep myself - but dark plots are ever wakeful. (“The Story of Prince Barkiarokh”)” 4 likes
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