Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Vathek” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition


3.3  ·  Rating details ·  4,061 Ratings  ·  267 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Vathek, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Arnstein H. Pettersen The literary genre called Gothic draws its name from two things: The period between the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths (410 CE) and the renaissance…moreThe literary genre called Gothic draws its name from two things: The period between the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths (410 CE) and the renaissance (approx. 14th century), was in the 18th century considered to be a dark, barbarous period whose sole redeeming feature was the concept of chivalry. Vathek is set somewhere between 840 and 850. The second would be the architectural style referred to (erronously) as Gothic. Vathek is not set in Europe and thus does not contain this specific style, but the focus on grand architecture is still present. The genre has a strong focus on the supernatural, which Vathek has in abundance. Other lesser elements such as the weakness of clergy and strong distinctions between innocence and malice are also present.

What is not present is a hero or heroine, and many of the genre traits are connected to these. Vathek is a villainous protagonist and so the tale does not require a polarized counterpart, instead finding the antagonist in another villain.

Other traits may apply, but I consider at least these to be important when deciding whether to tag the tale Gothic or not. Vathek has been labeled interchangeably Gothic, Oriental and fantasy, sometimes even comedy. All seem valid choices to me.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Helen Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος   Vernus Portitor Arcanus Ταμετούρο   Αμούν Arnum
«Ο Φάουστ της Ανατολής»

Ένα εξωτικό ανατολίτικο παραμύθι συνδυασμένο με τη γοητεία του γοτθικού ρομαντισμού δημιουργούν την
"Ιστορία του χαλίφη Βατέκ".

Μια υπερφυσική μαγεία υποβλητικής ομορφιάς,
σχεδόν υπνωτιστικής,
που αφιερώνεται- φορώντας το μαύρο μανδύα του μεσαίωνα-
σαν σπάνιος πολύτιμος λίθος,στα αρώματα,τους ήχους και τα χρώματα της παράδοσης,της φαντασίας και της ύπαρξης του ανθρώπινου είδους ως θεϊκή δημιουργία.

Ο Βατέκ,ως ηγεμόνας των μουσουλμάνων και απόγονος της φυλής του προφήτη Μωάμε
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Vathek, William Beckford, Edited with an introduction by Roger Lonsdale, London: Oxford university press, 1970=1349, 187 Pages
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و سوم ماه می سال 1978 میلادی
واتک یا واثق؛ که با عنوان: «واتک، حکایتی عربی یا داستان خلیفه واتک» نیز شناخته میشود، رمانی گوتیک (داستانهای پر از دلهره، افسون و فریب، ارواح و جادو پیشگان و...) است، به قلم توانای: ویلیام بکفورد، نویسنده ی انگلیسی. رمان در اوایل سال 1782 میلادی به زبان فرانسه نوشته شده، و بعدها توسط ساموئل هنلی به انگلیسی ترجمه شده. خل
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
دوستانِ گرانقدر، نامِ <واثق> در مغرب زمین و بخصوص در انگلستان، نامی شناخته شده است، زیرا زندگیِ افسانه آمیز او موضوع این کتاب است که یکی از موفق ترین اثار ادبیات انگلیس است که توسط < ویلیام بکفورد> نویسنده و شاعرِ انگلیسی در قرنِ هجدهم میلادی نوشته شد که بزرگان دیگر جهان ادب، همچون: لرد بایرن، کیتس، توماس مور، ادگار آلن پو، اسکار وایلد و آلدوس هکسلی، از آن به صورتِ گسترده ای الهام گرفتند... البته تا جاهایی نیز برایِ نوشتنِ این رمان از داستانِ < خسرو و شیرین> نظامی نیز بهره گرفت ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
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
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
This is an 18th century Gothic novel written by an English author, but written in the French language. It's about an Arabian sultan who makes a deal with the devil, which almost never ends well. That's an odd mix of tags, but this is an odd story. It reminds me a bit of Castle Otranto, but more violent. Just not my cup of tea.
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
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nickolas the Kid
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, gothic
Οι χίλιες και μια νύχτες σε συνδυασμό με τον Φαούστ. Αρκετά παράξενο βιβλίο...

Ολόκληρη κριτική στην Λέσχη του Βιβλίου
Kayıp Rıhtım
“Vay haline, bilmemesi gerekeni bilmek isteyenin ve gücünü aşan bir işe girişen gözü pek kişinin.”

William Beckford, yaratıcısının koyduğu sınırları karanlık güçlerin peşine takılarak ihlal eden ve Yeraltı Ateşi Sarayı’na ulaşabilmek için halkına dehşet saçan Abbasi soyunun dokuzuncu halifesi Vathek’in yıkıma sürüklenişini kaleme aldığında daha yirmi bir yaşındaydı. Üstelik üç gün iki gece içerisinde Fransızca olarak yazdığı Vathek, barındırdığı estetikler arası şölenle nice yazarlara ışık tutan
Aug 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: devoted gothic readers
I used to recall, with appalled amusement, the words of a former colleague of mine, who was slyly intrigued (and very proud of his cleverness) that anyone could read dead writers. What can I say? You don't usually argue with fools, whose minds are relaxed. Moreover, ignorance has many faces, and some of them are really funny even if in an involuntary way.

On the other hand though, maybe because there are strange points where ineptitude and intelligence seem to cross (not always clear whether for
K.D. Absolutely
May 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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: classics, 1001-core, 501
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
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
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
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
Ebster Davis
This book reminded me a lot of a thousand arabian nights; hard to follow at times, with lots of really vivid/psychedelic descriptions...but it's a lot shorter and less explicit.

The main character is pretty worldly king, and he can kill people by looking at them (but only if he's extremely angry). His mom is a necromancer of sorts and they do horrible thing after horrible thing so that he can divine his future/grand destiny or something like that.

I liked how the book represented Djinn. My favor
Oct 12, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
çok bildik hikaye (insanın şeytana uyması diyelim) ve sade anlatım.
Tolgonay Dinçer
Daha farklı bir şeyler bekliyordum, sevemedim bir türlü.
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
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Beckford wrote "The History of Caliph Vathek" in French in 1784, but it was first published in an English translation by Samuel Henley in 1786. Widely regarded as one of the seminal works of Gothic literature, this strange, unclassifiable novel recounts its eponymous protagonist's quest for esoteric knowledge and carnal pleasure, a quest which ultimately leads to his damnation.

"Vathek" combines exotic descriptions of the Orient with passages of grotesque comedy and a dollop of supernatu
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.


William Beckford, the author of the following celebrated Eastern tale, was born in 1760, and died in the spring of 1844, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. It is to be regretted, that a man of so remarkable a character, did not leave the world some record of a life offering points of interest different from that of any of his contemporaries, from the peculiarly studious retirement and eccentric avocations in which it was
Emad Attili
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
Vathek - Faust - Frankenstein. The same theme depicted in three different titles!
The search for forbidden knowledge, which leads to eternal damnation and misery.
It is an interesting theme which I truly enjoy to read.
But, you know, it's really difficult for me to enjoy anything after Faust and Frankenstein! I think two novels about the same theme are just enough!


The negative thing about the novel is its passive depiction of the orient! It's a combination of demonizing and neutralizing, just lik
Ezgi Tülü
Ya bilmiyorum bana bu tarz kitapları yorumlatmayın, diyecek bir şey bulamıyorum pek. O yüzden bence bir hikaye anlatabilirim:

Elimde Vathek, babamın yanına gittim. Kitap zevklerimiz son zamanlarda benzemeye başladığı için ve genel olarak onun ne tarz şeyler okuduğunu bildiğim için, "Baba, bak senin hoşuna gidebilecek bir kitap aldım," dedim.

Sonra babam kitaba baktı, baktı, baktı ve dedi ki: "Bu bizim Vathek mi? Yoksa yeni mi?" Kitabı biraz karıştırdı ve "Bekle geliyorum," deyip salona gitti. Geri
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Hemen hemen aynı anda, aynı ses, halife, Nurunihar, dört prens ve prensese de geri dönülmez yasayı bildirmişti. Yürekleri ateş aldı; ve işte o anda, Tanrının bağışlarının en değerli olanını, umudu yitirdiler!"

Salt bir şeyin hükümdarı olmak uğruna, en kötü şeyin hükümdarı olup mutsuzluk ve umutsuzluk içinde yüzmek, evlâ mıdır? Beştepe'deki 'uzun'a sorun bakalım.
This is copy number 40 of 250 signed numbered copies.

The Book is signed by Donald Sidney-Fryer who wrote the introduction and David Whitlam who profusely illustrated the book.
Arnstein H. Pettersen
A review of a novel both Gothic and Oriental, focusing on the Gale ECCO edition with its benefits and flaws.

The tale concerning the man who is introduced as "Vathek, Ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides," is one that defied the conventions of its genres, inspired literary works for over a century (indebted authors include Lord Byron, Keats, Lovecraft, and T. Moore), and in the wake of countless publishings, it entertained generations of readers. It all began with William Beckford's short bu
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
La Stamberga dei ...: Vathek e Gli episodi di William Beckford 1 4 Oct 25, 2013 10:03AM  
Worst Book You Have Ever Read. 2 50 May 05, 2012 01:38AM  
  • The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
  • The Old English Baron
  • Zofloya
  • The Man of Feeling
  • Melmoth the Wanderer
  • Caleb Williams
  • Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus
  • The Castle of Otranto
  • Love in Excess
  • Amelia
  • Wieland, or, The Transformation
  • The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
  • A Sicilian Romance
  • Camilla
  • Julie, or the New Heloise
  • Nightmare Abbey
  • Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

Share This Book

“Woe to the rash mortal who seeks to know that of which he should remain ignorant, and to undertake that which surpasseth his power!” 4 likes
“At these words, the fathers of the fifty boys cried out aloud; the mothers repeated their exclamations an octave higher; whilst the rest, without knowing the cause, soon drowned the voices of both, with still louder lamentations of their own.” 2 likes
More quotes…