Decadence and Symbolism: A Showcase Anthology

Edited by Brian Stableford. Snuggly, $28 trade paper (442p) ISBN 978-1-943813-58-2
Stableford collates a wide selection of his own translations of French decadent and symbolist writers in this thorough anthology. There are 86 pieces by 61 authors, most of them written between 1880 and 1900. The goal is a thorough overview of both the decadent and symbolist movements from their earliest beginnings to the rise of surrealism and other replacements, and to that end Stableford provides a scholarly (though opinionated) opening essay establishing the context, philosophies, and overlapping nature of the two movements. Unfortunately, Stableford’s limitations as a translator make the work of the more accomplished authors presented here, such as Charles Baudelaire and Joris-Karl Huysmans, almost painful to read; the style of the originals fails to come across. However, when presenting less style-focused writers, Stableford’s translations achieve readability and grace. The lesser-known works, such as Henri de Régnier’s “The Tale of the Lady of the Seven Mirrors,” a fantasy parable about mythological creatures overrunning a young girl’s garden, and Jane de La Vaudère’s “Red Lust,” in which a young woman desires a circus trainer’s failure rather than the circus trainer, are lovely. The depth and breadth of work presented is impressive, and Stableford’s renditions of previously untranslated works make this a worthy book for anyone interested in these literary movements. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2018
Release date: 04/30/2018
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