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The Other Side - cover

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The Other Side

Alfred Kubin

Publisher: Dedalus

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Summary

The Other Side tells of a dream kingdom which becomes a nightmare, of a journey to Pearl, a mysterious city created deep in Asia, which is also a journey to the depths of the subconcious, or as Kubin himself called it, 'a sort of Baedeker for those lands which are half known to us'. Written in 1908, and more or less half way between Meyrink and Kafka, it was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the artists and writers of the Expressionist generation. Franz Marc called it a magnificent reckoning with the 19th century and Kandinsky said it was almost a vision of evil, while Lyonel Feininger wrote to Kubin. 'I live much in Pearl, you must have written it and drawn it for me'. It will appeal to fans of Mervyn Peake and readers who like the darkly decadent, the fantastic and the grotesque in their reading. Alfred Kubin (1877-1959) was one of the major graphic artists of the 20th century who was widely known for his illustrations of writers of the fantastic such as Balzac, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Gustav Meyrink and Edgar Allan Poe, of whom he illustrated at least 50 books. In his combination of the darkly decadent, the fantastic and the grotesque, in his evocations of dream and nightmare, his creation of an atmosphere of mystery and fear he resembles Mervyn Peake. The Other Side (1908) is his only work of fiction. Expressionist illustrator Kubin wrote this fascinating curio, his only literary work in 1908. A town named Pearl, assembled and presided over by the aptly named Patera, is the setting for his hallucinatory vision of a society founded on instinct over reason. Culminating apocalyptically - plagues of insects, mountains of corpses and orgies in the street - it is worth reading for its dizzying surrealism alone. Though ostensibly a gothic macabre fantasy, it is tempting to read The Other Side as a satire on the reactionary, idealist utopianism evident in German thought in the early twentieth century, highly prescient in its gloom, given later developments. The language often suggests Nietsche. The inevitable collapse of Patera's creation is lent added horror by hindsight. Kubin's depiction of absurd bureaucracy is strongly reminiscent of Kafka's The Trial, and his flawed utopia, situated next to a settlement of supposed savages, brings to mind Huxley's Brave New World; it precedes both novels, and this superb new translation could demonstrate its influence on subsequent modern literature. Kieron Pim in Time Out. The danger of a purely ideological enterprise is exposed in this unusual novel first published in 1908, and which seems now to be horribly prescient about what the Nazis would perpetrate 30 years later. A 'dream state' is created, where reason doesn't matter, only instinct, and its full horrors are realised. Powerful but highly engaging too. The Sunday Herald

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