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Vathek by William Beckford
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Vathek (original 1786; edition 1816)

by William Beckford

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7983111,482 (3.21)1 / 114
Member:panzerwolf
Title:Vathek
Authors:William Beckford
Info:London, 1816.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, classics

Work details

Vathek by William Beckford (1786)

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English (25)  French (2)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This book is considered to be the 1,002 fable in the Arabian Nights Tales. It was interesting but fantasy is not one of my favorite genres. The narrative of Vathek uses a third person, omniscient, in the sense that he knows what is happening everywhere. The novel, while it may lend itself to be divided into chapters, is one complete manuscript without pause. It's humor is entertaining in some parts but it does drag in the middle. If you like fantasy type fables then I would recommend this book for you. ( )
  eadieburke | Jan 19, 2016 |
Vathek William Beckford
★★★

This is the story of the Caliph Vathek a dissolute man with obvious Mummy issues, when he meets a mysterious Indian who promises him magical weapons and knowledge in exchange for him renouncing his religion, murdering hundreds of innocent children and betraying his people the Caliph thinks, you know what that sounds like a good plan with no downside so why not...

Well as every sensible person knows the only reward you are going to get for betraying every good principle in the world is a slow, painful death and guess what the Caliph gets??
( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
A fairytale akin to the Arabian Nights with a strong moral against greed and power. Vathek falls from grace by being tempted by the Giaour (a demon type thing) and declines steadily. An easy read but not particularly exciting. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
Almost works as a self-parody. Almost. And it's clear that this wasn't intentional on the part of Beckford. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
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 supernatural derring-do. Indeed, one of the challenges for modern sensibilities (and possibly its original readers as well) is to determine when Beckford should is being earnest and when he ventures into self-parody. Even allowing for the genre's excesses, episodes such as that of a wizard being turned into a ball and being kicked over Vathek's kingdom are clearly intended as black comedy. But what about Vathek's damnation, described in language of poetic intensity? Is the moralistic ending to be taken at face value or is Beckford being ironic? The author's letters suggest the former to be the case - which is rather surprising considering the atmosphere of decadence which permeates the novel.

If read purely for narrative pleasure, Vathek might disappoint. The plot is episodic, there are too many changes of gear, and the novel's ultimate message - if it does have one - is elusive and unclear. Yet, for anybody interested in early Romanticism, Orientalism, supernatural fiction or, for that matter, unusual literary fare, this is a must-read.

The Oxford World Classics text follows the 1816 English language version, prepared by Beckford himself. It includes an informative introduction by Roger Lonsdale which, interestingly, makes the case for *not* considering Vathek a Gothic novel. Also included are the erudite endnotes which Beckford included in the 1816 edition of Vathek (although first-time readers might prefer just reading through it and then consulting the notes on subsequent readings). ( )
4 vote JosephCamilleri | Sep 18, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (46 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Beckfordprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benda, WolframTranslator and Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carter, LinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helnwein, GottfriedIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lonsdale, RogerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moravia, AlbertoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paoletti, GiovanniEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pintor, GiaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The long and extravagant career of the author of Vathek would surely have impressed Samuel Johnson as a notable and sustained illustration of what his Imlac had called (in his own very different 'oriental' tale) 'that hunger of imagination which preys incessantly upon life'. (Introduction)
Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides, was the son of Motassem, and the grandson of Haroun al Raschid.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192836560, Paperback)

Beckford's Gothic novel, "Vathek", an Arabian tale, was originally written in French when the author was 21. It is the story of Caliph Vathek, whose eye can kill at a glance, who makes a pact with the Devil, Eblis.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

William Beckford was a youthful millionaire who first published 'Vathek' in late 18th century France. He was exiled from England for his outrageous behaviour whilst at the same time being considered by Byron and Lovecraft as a great Gothic writer. This ed. of this translation originally published: 1980.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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