Leonard Gaya's Reviews > The Rats in the Walls

The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft
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This short story, one of the early dark jewels of Lovecraft's corpus, is a horror genre elaboration on the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin medieval legend. It has the mouldy smell of twilight, of gothic nightmare and rotten ruins, distinctive of its author. The narrator of The Rats in the Walls, as usual with Lovecraft, tells his experience in the first person. The story seems to be directly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher: it’s about a deserted, worm-eaten house where some seamy murder might have taken place long ago. The hellish vermin in the foundations of the house is not readily apparent, but gradually revealed through the narrator’s somnolent states, often haunted with a “fear of the unknown” (a typical Lovecraftian sort of fear).

There is a thinly veiled reference to the trench warfare of World War I which, like the Pied Piper, takes children away. But one particular feature of this story is its constant intertextuality, especially in the literature of depravity and decay: hints to Petronius, to Catullus, to the Marquis de Sade, to E.T.A. Hoffmann, to Huysmans. Apparently, the atrocious cesspits behind the recesses in the walls and underneath the house are like an unfathomable secret library, and its broken skulls are like open books that can make the reader stammer and drive him mad.

As a side note, it’s also —to my knowledge— the first story where Lovecraft mentions Nyarlathotep, one of the deities in his fanciful pantheon.
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Finished Reading
March 26, 2018 – Shelved

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