0088 | Vathek – William Beckford



Context: read this on the train to St Petersburg from Moscow

A bonkers adventure really of Vathek’s passion ending predictably enough.

Having just read about Stalin, this tale is meaningless to everyone who has no belief in divine judgement. Stalin carried on far worse than Vathek, yet there seemed to be no retribution for his misdeeds in his lifetime.

To those who do believe in judgment at death, the tale is a needless addition to the more ample Biblical wisdom already available.

Didn’t enjoy it, wouldn’t recommend it. If you really have to read it, just read the first and last lines below and that will probably do.

Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides was the sono of Motussam and the grandsom of Haroun al Rashid.

Thus the Caliph Vathek, who, for the sake of empty pomp and forbidden power, had sullied himself with 1000 crimes, became a prey to grief without end, and remorse without mitigation: whilst the humble the despised Gulehearoz passed the whole age in undisturbed tranquility and in the pure happiness of childhood.

terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb

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  1. heh. this is indeed an odd little number. i had to teach it to first year undergraduate English majors at the University of Leeds – it was the first text they’d ever studied at university level. (i don’t think they knew what hit them…) we read it alongside Said’s Orientalism and notions of the sublime – with these things in mind it is an interesting example of an English representation of the East…

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