Waystations of the Deep Night by Marcel Brion
A canonical gem of the nocturnal fantastic, in the tradition of German Romantics such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and Novalis
First published in France in the dark year of 1942, the story collection Waystations of the Deep Night remains the best-known of Marcel Brion’s numerous novels and stories in the vein of the strange and the fantastic. The journeys in this volume carry the reader through the surreal vistas of an underground city that appears aboveground as a bizarre theater of facades and a fire-ravaged landscape where souls turn to ash. A young castrato sings his heart out in a lost baroque garden; a child falls under the fateful spell of an enchanted painting; a traveler in a burned-out landscape encounters the Prince of Death; and dancing cats engage in mortal combat in the cellars of an abandoned port city.
A self-declared heir of Achim von Arnim and E.T.A. Hoffmann, Brion was also an admirer of the German Romantic writer Novalis and his sequence of Hymns to the Night, but his own imaginative homages to the night are more troublingly ambiguous, possibly an indirect reflection of the dark times in which they were written.
Born in Marseille in 1895, Marcel Brion was a freelance writer and critic. In 1964 he was elected to the Académie française in recognition of both his critical and creative writing, Over the course of a long and productive career he published 20 novels, four volumes of short stories and some 68 nonfiction books covering music, art, literature, history and travel. He died in Paris in 1984.