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The King in the Golden Mask and Other Stories

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  222 ratings  ·  27 reviews
First published in French in 1892 and never before translated fully into English, The King in the Golden Mask gathers 21 of Marcel Schwob’s cruelest and most erudite tales. Melding the fantastic with historical fiction, these stories describe moments of unexplained violence both historical and imaginary, often blending the two through Schwob’s collaging of primary source d ...more
Hardcover, 186 pages
Published January 1st 1984 by Carcanet Pr (first published 1891)
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4.18  · 
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 ·  222 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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mark monday
A beautiful collection of stories. Diverse in tone and varied in subject. Despite the frequent and welcome scent of old school decadence that perfumes many of these tales, what makes them resonant is Schwob's clear empathy. It is the unifying factor amidst so much that is unalike.

The book and the stories within are well-known for springing from sources other than their author's mind. Schwob often lifted entire sections from the archaic originals. And so they are not original - and yet they feel
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wakefield Press has been publishing some wonderful translations of works that are under-exposed to readers of English-language books. “Overlooked gems and literary oddities,” as they put it. Their presentation is clean, tight, and, in the examples I’ve read, accompanied by erudite and insightful analyses and introductions.

Normally, I would elucidate each story in a collection, but not this time. There are 21 stories contained in this book, each of them only three or four pages long. If you’re in
Nate D
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: salt smugglers, orphans, automata
Recommended to Nate D by: a scroll in a ruined tower also describing the murder of a debauched king
While as stories these often feel ever so slight, barely more than historical sketches of lost times, peoples, and events in classical or medieval history, Schwob was a master at reworking found tales and settings into incandescent imagery that push these into the hallucinatory and ineffaceable. A clear influence on Borges, even the simplest of these look onwards towards his early pseudo-biographies in A Universal History of Iniquity, while the more elaborate become tightly-arranged symbolist ta ...more
Bill  Kerwin

A talented author of the French fin de siecle, Marcel Schwob (1867-1905) wrote colorful, well-crafted prose crammed with historical detail and macabre imagery. He was a friend or comrade to a great many turn-of-the-century authors—Paul Valery, Alfred Jarry, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Octave Mirbeau, Pierre Louys, Marcel Proust, to name a few—and is considered to be an influence on both Borges and Bolano.

Schwob was attracted to the morbid and marvelous (Poe, Stevenson, Chesterton) from
Nancy Oakes
there is a full post of my thoughts on this book at my reading journal:

There are twenty-one stories in this volume, each dedicated to a different friend, ranging from science fiction-ish to contes cruels to the out-and-out weird. Honestly, I loved them all, and on the whole, the entire collection is just beautiful both in terms of writing and in what Schwob is able to bring out in each story. I won't go into them but I will share a rather eye-opening exper
Stephen Miletus
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This translation, by Iain White, is not exactly of Schwob's book of this title. Instead it is a selection of stories from several of Schwob's books: Coeur double ("The double heart"), Le Roi au masque d'or ("The king in the golden mask"), Vies imaginaires ("Imaginary lives") -- which has been translated in full elsewhere -- & The children's crusade. (White explains that he did not include any stories from Book of Monelle because he believes "the book is simply not excerptible; it must be tak ...more
Dr Zorlak
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dr by:
Shelves: short-stories
Nice, compact collection of precise, diamond cut stories, some more engaging and satisfying than others. They are all eerie and vaguely sinister. They look, in my mind's eye, like sets in a Jodorowsky movie. My favorite: "The Embalming Women."
Rob Atkinson
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange and haunting collection of stories, each a fever dream, most often with a curious sense of irresolution and moral ambiguity. A major influence on Jorge Luis Borges and beloved by the Surrealists, Schwob was fascinated by the bizarre and the occult, and employed a variety of obscure historical documents in his work, incorporating and reworking the original texts in a kind of appropriative palimpsest that looks forward to post-modern fictional strategies. The result is compelling, the of ...more
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
snow blind

Of all the Decadent/Symbolist authors, Marcel Schwob is the purest.
Cornelia Funke
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an unforgettable voice! Guillermo del Toro recommended Schwob to me- quite a gift. I am reading the stories in German so can't judge the English version. Hope it's equally powerful and unique!
Vittorio Ducoli
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oltre le Vite Immaginarie: i racconti semisconosciuti di un raffinatissimo simbolista

Marcel Schwob è un autore fondamentale per comprendere quella stagione della letteratura francese (e non solo) che va sotto il nome di simbolismo. In Italia è conosciuto soprattutto per Le vite immaginarie, di cui sono disponibili numerose edizioni; altri volumi, editi per lo più da piccole case editrici, consentono di farsi un’idea più completa della produzione letteraria di questo eclettico autore, che nella s
Mason Jones
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a little hard to give this one 4 stars, but 3 doesn't seem enough, so there you go. The first time the entire collection has been properly published in English, this 1892 volume of stories casts a dark, surrealist spell. The strongest stories feel like twisted fairy tales, concluding most often with murders, suicides, or at the very least depressing acceptance of failure. In one of the lightest, a young girl hitches a ride on a barge in search of the world of wonder of which her father has ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
...and five stars for Wakefield Press for bringing out so much Schwob in English lately. Most of his best stuff had been (long) out of print in the US; a lot was just sitting untranslated. Problem solved.

Schwob is drop-what-you're-doing mandatory reading for anyone who's gotten lost in Borges, Galeano, Calvino, Bolano; Herodotus, Livy, Plutarch, Froissart; or Burton, Gibbon, Johnson, Diderot; out-of-date biographies, old encyclopedia entries, incorrect or obsolete histories.
Jeff Raymond
A collection of older weird short stories translated from French, they’re impressive in how modern they feel in spite of their age. The most interesting thing to me was how abrupt the stories ended in this one – where I’m used to a more drawn-out narrative, many of these simply come to a logical conclusion and we move on. It was a nice addition to already-unsettling stories.

This is worth a look, especially if you’re as interested in the evolution of the weird branch of horror fiction as I am.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Glittering, dense little stories. Like some other late 19th/early 20th stuff (Machen, e.g.) it has this weird sensory intensity that almost overwhelms you at times. Great translation, it seems. Lovely little book, physically, too, nice print, nice pages, striking cover design.

Supposedly an influence on both Borges and Bolano so, you know, I had to read it. But it's its own thing.
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Голяма част от сюрреалистичните истории на Марсел Швоб звучат като умело разказани приказки, които обаче са подходящи по-скоро за възрастни заради твърде натуралистичните описания на някои места. Освен че е добро въведение в творчеството на автора, този сборник ще бъде особено интересен на запознатите с френската литература от края на 19-ти и началото на 20-ти век. Всяка история е посветена на автор от периода (и съвременник на самия Швоб) и съдържа алюзии и интертекстуални препратки към творчес ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I honestly only read this for the title story, which I thought was the best one of the collection. There were a few others that were compelling, disturbing, and creepy. Overall, a good collection of short stories.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Probably the strangest collection of (very) short stories I have ever read or will ever probably encounter. They are apparently based on the author's extremely wide education and knowledge of all sorts of events and myths beginning a long ago. He was a highly and widely educated man, writing in the late 1800's. They can be disturbing, sad, bizarre, thought-provoking, parable-like, speculative, etc. I must admit that one of the collections was very hard to understand. There are obscure foreign wo ...more
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-loan
A fascinating little volume that sits like a pivot between gothic literature of the 19th century and modernist and post-modernist writing of the 20th and 21st. A series of brief, often macabre, tales, sometimes constructed, like a palimpsest, from original sources. Schwob's levelling of paraphrase, quotation, and re-use, with the original voice of the author, provided an impetus for many later writers, including Borges and Calvino among others. Highly evocative, strange, and darkly beautiful, a ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book; fantastic tales from early 20th century, with a surrealist twist to them. I enjoy the archaic language he uses, which the translator has - or so it seems - has done a good job replicating. I would love to read this in French to get the real flavor of that aspect of the book.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lots of great adjectives in this book, like "grogblossomed." Everyone dies. Also made me realize my #1 fantasy might be being mummified??
Michael Siebert
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
pretty good
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun
Schwob’s descriptions in The Fat Man make the fable’s structure into a mirror of the plot. A fable lacks, it must be left a skeleton for the reader to flesh out. The Dom brought tears to my eyes. I wondered if corpse sinkers were real.

Here’s a list of words I learned from The Amber Trader: massif, burin, and moraine. A friend recently told me that there will be software that could translate a book from one language to another, taking into account my preferences. But in this hypothetical translat
Nicolás MGM
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Escritor exquisito, Schwob nos deleita en esta ocasión con una serie de relatos independientes entre sí que abarcan los más diversos temas. Con un estilo siempre sobrio, colorido y musical, deja que su imaginación roce los argumentos más extraños. El resultado es algo irregular, pero ningún cuento deja de sorprender. De esta colección, los que más me han gustado son: "El rey de la máscara de oro", en donde un rey y los servidores del reino usan máscaras que ocultan sus rostros, hasta que el rey ...more
El Divino Bambú
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aunque está lejos de su mejor libro, Vidas imaginarias, es imposible no deshacerse ante la prosa de Schwob.
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me ha sorprendido este autor, desconocido para mí. Aunque algunos de sus cuentos han envejecido bastante mal tiene otros que son realmente buenos.
Tiago Aires
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May 26, 2016
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Marcel Schwob (1867-1905) was one of the key symbolist writers, standing in French literature alongside such names as Stephane Mallarme, Octave Mirbeau, Andre Gide, Leon Bloy, Jules Renard, Remy de Gourmont, and Alfred Jarry. His best-known works are Double Heart (1891), The King In The Gold Mask (1892), and Imaginary Lives (1896).
“As masks are the sign that there are faces, words are the sign that there are things. And these things are the sign of the incomprehensible.” 4 likes
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