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Sherds Podcast

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Sherds Podcast is a journey through the outskirts of literary history. Each episode, we take an in-depth look at a lesser-known literary text and attempt to give it the critical attention it deserves: books that are criminally overlooked, have struggled to reach an anglophone audience, or are just downright odd. Hosted by Sam Pulham and Rob Prouse Sam Pulham

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Sherds Podcast is a journey through the outskirts of literary history. Each episode, we take an in-depth look at a lesser-known literary text and attempt to give it the critical attention it deserves: books that are criminally overlooked, have struggled to reach an anglophone audience, or are just downright odd. Hosted by Sam Pulham and Rob Prouse Sam Pulham

iTunes Ratings

9 Ratings
Average Ratings
6
3
0
0
0

What a literary podcast should be.

By merryhaddock - Sep 12 2019
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Works of fiction should haunt the reader. Sherds podcast haunts the listener. A podcast of unusual, decadent and surreal literature, wonderfuly produced and thoughtfully discussed, interwoven with excellent readings and atmospheric compositions. For anyone who loves books and the written word this podcast is a must.

Explorations of neglected literary works

By Manhog - Jan 17 2018
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I've enjoyed the first few episodes of the Sherds Podcast very much. The show focuses on lesser-known titles from literary history, often those with a mystical or naturist bent (naturist in the sense of nature worship, and not so much in the sense of bare bums). The discussion format brings out a lot of interesting angles, and encourages the listener to investigate great forgotten works that may have slipped into obscurity prematurely.

iTunes Ratings

9 Ratings
Average Ratings
6
3
0
0
0

What a literary podcast should be.

By merryhaddock - Sep 12 2019
Read more
Works of fiction should haunt the reader. Sherds podcast haunts the listener. A podcast of unusual, decadent and surreal literature, wonderfuly produced and thoughtfully discussed, interwoven with excellent readings and atmospheric compositions. For anyone who loves books and the written word this podcast is a must.

Explorations of neglected literary works

By Manhog - Jan 17 2018
Read more
I've enjoyed the first few episodes of the Sherds Podcast very much. The show focuses on lesser-known titles from literary history, often those with a mystical or naturist bent (naturist in the sense of nature worship, and not so much in the sense of bare bums). The discussion format brings out a lot of interesting angles, and encourages the listener to investigate great forgotten works that may have slipped into obscurity prematurely.
Cover image of Sherds Podcast

Sherds Podcast

Latest release on Aug 05, 2020

Read more

Sherds Podcast is a journey through the outskirts of literary history. Each episode, we take an in-depth look at a lesser-known literary text and attempt to give it the critical attention it deserves: books that are criminally overlooked, have struggled to reach an anglophone audience, or are just downright odd. Hosted by Sam Pulham and Rob Prouse Sam Pulham

Rank #1: #24 One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard

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Caradog Prichard’s One Moonlit Night was originally published in Welsh in 1961.    The book is a classic of Welsh literature, which though greatly admired in its native country, is still shamefully neglected in the English-speaking world.  Set in a small village in North Wales, One Moonlit Night is the breathless monologue of a young boy who unveils the sorrows and torments, the ecstasies and revelations of a poverty stricken, but close-knit community as it weathers the distant storm of the First World War.  

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the significance of The Great War in the book, Prichard’s narratorial style, and consider whether One Moonlit Night may be thought of as a political novel.  

The wonderful readings in this episode are by Tris Rhys, a listener who very kindly offered his services and his Welsh-language skills, for which we’re very grateful.  

Bibliography:

Welsh Gothic by Jane Aaron (University of Wales Press, 2013) 

https://www.walesartsreview.org/the-winner-of-the-greatest-welsh-novel-is-un-nos-ola-leuad-by-caradog-prichard/

https://biography.wales/article/s10-PRIC-CAR-1904#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=26&manifest=https%3A%2F%2Fdamsssl.llgc.org.uk%2Fiiif%2F2.0%2F4633846%2Fmanifest.json

Oct 27 2019

1hr 10mins

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Rank #2: #23 Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

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Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope MIrrlees was originally published in 1926.   Lud-in-the-Mist is the name of the capital city of the fictional free state of Dorimare, a country which shares a border with Fairyland, just across The Debatable Hills.   Centuries ago, under the rule of Duke Aubrey, Fairy things had been part of life and culture in Dorimare.  After a violent revolution, a new merchant class took over the country.  Duke Aubrey was expelled and all mention of Fairies and Fairy lore became taboo.  The smuggling of hallucination-inducing fairy fruit into Dorimare continues, however, behind closed doors. When Nathaniel Chanticleer, the Mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist finds that his son has ingested some of this heinous fruit, the old ways, the traditions and romance of the Fairies can no longer be ignored.

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the methods Mirrlees’ novel has in common with Modernist practice, the various allegorical interpretations that offer themselves throughout the text, and the emergent class politics suggested by her depiction of the fairy folk.

Bibliography:

Attebury, Brian, ‘“Make it Old”: The Other Mythic Method’ in The Mirror of the Past, ed. Bogdan Trocha, Aleksander Rzyman, Tomasz Ratajczak (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014)

Mirrlees, Hope, Collected Poems, ed. Sandeep Parmar, (Fyfield Books, 2011) 

Sep 23 2019

1hr 9mins

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Rank #3: #12 Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

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Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker was originally published in 1980.  The novel is set in Kent some two or three thousand years after a nuclear holocaust which has destroyed the land, plunging society back to iron-age levels of technology.   Its foundational myth, the Eusa story, grown out of the scattered fragments of ancient history, is the story of how technological progress led to the nuclear war and the long dark age which is referred to as “Bad Time.”  After the death of his father in an accident at work, Riddley, our narrator, eventually finds himself leaving the community and heading out alone on a quest to rediscover and perhaps return to prosperity of the ancients.  The story is told in an imagined, future dialect of English which, though rugged and decayed, has its own alien poetry. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss Hoban’s invented dialect, his plundering of English folklore, what it means to create a mythology, and the pivotal significance of the figure of The Green Man.

Bibliography:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation by Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber, 2007)

The Death of Tragedy by George Steiner (Faber & Faber, 1961)

‘Hoap of a Tree in Riddley Walker’ by David Huisman in Christianity and Literature, Vol. 43, No. 3/4 (Spring-Summer 1994)

‘Dialect, Grapholect, and Story: Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker as Science Fiction’ by R. D. Mullen in Science Fiction Studies Vol. 27, No. 3 (Nov., 2000)

Sep 23 2018

1hr 8mins

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Rank #4: #10 The Ship by Hans Henny Jahnn

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Hans Henny Jahnn was a German organ-builder, playwright and novelist. 

In this episode, we look at the only novel of his available in English, The Ship (1949), a beguilingly dark, allegorical tale set aboard a wooden ship with blood red sails which embarks upon an unknown mission, carrying an unknown cargo, a mystery to both captain and crew.  The reasons for the journey are perhaps understood only by the shady figure of the supercargo as well as the shipowner, whose presence is as uncertain as the contents of the boxes in the ship's hold.  The captain, Waldemar Strunck, has a daughter, Ellena, who follows him on this voyage, while Gustave, her fiancé, takes himself aboard as a stowaway in order not to be separated from his beloved.  In the middle of the ship's journey, Ellena disappears, and in the search for her, Gustave must confront the very fabric of reality. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss Jahnn's curious mixing of genres, the interplay between the hidden and the revealed,  and speculate upon the possible allegorical intentions of the text. 

Bibliography:

'Apologie des Untergangs: Ästhetische Erfahrung in Hans Henny Jahnns "Fluß ohne
Ufer"' by Christoph Zeller in Poetica, Vol. 35, No. 1/2 (2003)

Hans Henny Jahnn: eine Biografie (1986) by Thomas Freeman

'The Theme of the Black Race in the Works Of Hans Henny Jahnn' by Richard Detsch in Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, LITERATURE AND IDEAS (Winter, 1974)

Jul 10 2018

1hr 6mins

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Rank #5: #4 At Twilight They Return by Zyranna Zateli

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In this episode, we look at Zyranna Zateli's At Twilight They Return: a Novel in Ten Tales (1993), translated by David Connolly.  Set during the final decades of the 19th century, the novel tells the vivid and meandering history of several generations of a single family in northern Greece.  As the modern world begins encroach upon the ancient, the border between the mythic and the real becomes porous, and in Zateli's hands, both are able to exist in a perpetual twilight.

Over the course of our discussion, we consider the transitional period of the book's setting, the symbolism of wolves, and examine Zateli's curious weaving together of folklore and mythology. 

Dec 03 2017

56mins

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Rank #6: #25 The Mainz Psalter by Jean Ray

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Jean Ray’s The Mainz Psalter was originally published in 1930.   We read the story in Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s anothology, The Weird, and the translation is by Lowell Blair. The story tells the grizzly tale of The Mainz Psalter, a ship en route to Greenland under the ownership of the shadowy figure of the schoolmaster, with a purpose that remains a mystery to its crew.  As the ship sails deeper into northern waters, reality begins to bend in peculiar directions and the crew’s number dwindles.  Those who remain have doubts as to whether this is indeed the reality they had known. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the literary lineage of Jean Ray’s tale, its relationship with cosmic horror, and the peculiar treatment of religion within the text.

The music in this episode is by Penitent Whisper. You can hear more of their music here: https://penitentwhisper.bandcamp.com/releases

Bibliography: 

Lyrical Ballads (1798) by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’  (1927) by H. P. Lovecraft

The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Wells

http://weirdfictionreview.com/2011/11/ghosts-fear-and-parallel-worlds-the-supernatural-fiction-of-jean-ray/

Oct 30 2019

52mins

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Rank #7: #22 The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

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The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas was originally published in Nynorsk in 1957, and is available from Peter Owen books and now also as a Penguin Modern Classics  edition.  The translation is by Michael Barnes and Torbjorn Stoverud.  The central character of The Birds is Mattis, a mentally disabled man, living with his sister in a small rural community in Norway.   We observe Mattis as he attempts to navigate the obstacles of everyday life - the obligations of work, family relationships and even romantic love.  Mattis’ transcendental, or even visionary inner life, keenly evoked by Vesaas’ spare and lucid prose, is far richer than it appears to those around him.  At the core of the novel, is Mattis’ struggle with the border between experience and expression in a world where birds seem to understand more than people.  

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the role of the woodcock as a symbol, Vesaas’ sensitive and generous treatment of mental disability, and the possibility of viewing Mattis as an artist figure.

Jul 19 2019

1hr 6mins

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Rank #8: #18 The Witches of Kyiv by Orest Somov

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The Witches of Kyiv and Other Gothic Tales collects a range of stories by Ukrainian Romantic author, Orest Somov which were originally published between 1827 and 1833.  This collection comes from Sova Books and the translations are by Svitlana Yakovenko.  The book also features a helpful glossary and annotations, as well as excellent introduction by Svitlana Krys.  

Though written in Russian, these gothic tales draw heavily on Ukrainian folklore, and introduce a distinctly regional flavour to the palette of the Romantic literature of the 1820s and ‘30s.  Bold Cossack warriors, perilously seductive water sprites, and cunning witches haunt the pages of the collection, and bring into being the theories espoused by Somov in his seminal essay of 1823, ‘On Romantic Poetry’.  

In this episode, I’m joined by Dr Keith Walmsley to discuss the work and influence of this forgotten innovator of Romantic prose in Russian. Over the course of the programme, we discuss Somov’s role as the originator of many motifs that will echo throughout Russian and Ukrainian literature, consider his relationship with Russia, and examine the import of the various folkloric figures which populate his tales.   

Bibliography:

‘Orest Somov: An Introduction’ by John Mersereau in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 43, No. 101 (June, 1965), pp. 354-370 (the Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London)

The Holy Fool in Russian Culture by Eva Thompson (University Press of America, 1987)

Russian Romantic Criticism: An Anthology edited by Lauren G. Leighton (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987)

Russia and Ukraine: Literature and the Discourse of Empire from Napoleonic to Postcolonial Times (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2001) 

Были и небылицы, Орест Михайлович Сомов (Сов. Россия, 1984)

Mar 31 2019

1hr 8mins

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Rank #9: #5 The Man Whom the Trees Loved by Algernon Blackwood

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In this episode, we look at Algernon Blackwood's story, 'The Man Whom the Trees Loved', which was published in his collection Pan's Garden (1912).  The story concerns David and Sophia Bittacy, a married couple living on the edge of the New Forest.  Under the influence of the bohemian painter, Sanderson, David becomes increasingly obsessed with the inner life of the trees in the neighbouring forest. 

Over the course of our discussion, we consider Algernon Blackwood's place in the Gothic tradition, the symbolism of cedars, and explore the dual possibilities of supernatural and psychological readings of the story. 

Jan 14 2018

1hr 7mins

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Rank #10: #21 Graves: An Interview with Quentin S. Crisp

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On this episode of Sherds Podcast, I’m joined by writer, Quentin S. Crisp, to discuss his new novel, Graves (2019), published by Snuggly Books, who give the following description of the book:

In Graves, Damien, a male nurse and self-styled ‘thanatophile’, is in love with death in its purer and more ideal form. However, as he casts around for some authentic way to defy the void of modernity, his thanatophilia is swiftly and insidiously corrupted. Scavenging what ‘materials’ he can, he works in isolation like a reverse Doctor Frankenstein, wishing to understand the secrets of death, not life, in order to break the narrative power of science over the modern mind.

Set against the backdrop of anomie-drenched 21st-century London, Graves, Quentin S. Crisp’s second major novel, is a work of Gothic horror that confronts the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness in a world where it is easier to believe in artificial intelligence than human intelligence.

Over the course of the programme we discuss the influence of Japanese Literature on Crisp’s work, the importance of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Graves, and the moral complexities of antinatalism.

Footnotes:

Some of the authors mentioned by Crisp throughout the programme are:

Nagai Kafu - you can read about Quentin S. Crisp’s relationship with this writer here: https://mathewfriley.com/2010/08/quentin-s-crisp-the-book-i-would-like-to-be-buried-with/

Justin Isis - http://justinisis.blogspot.com/ - whose two collections of stories, I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like (2011), and Welcome to the Arms Race (2015) are both published by Chômu Press: http://chomupress.com/

Jeremy Reed - http://www.jeremyreed.co.uk/

Zdravka Evtimova - http://www.contemporarybulgarianwriters.com/1-writers/evtimova-zdravka/

Brendan Connell - whose novel, Clark (2016), is singled out for special mention: http://www.snugglybooks.co.uk/clark/

About the Author:

Quentin S. Crisp was born in 1972, in North Devon, UK. He studied Japanese at the University of Durham and graduated in 2000. He has had fiction published by Tartarus Press, PS Publishing, Eibonvale Press and others. He currently resides in Bexleyheath, and is editor for Chômu Press.

May 26 2019

1hr 27mins

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Rank #11: #20 Hauntings by Vernon Lee

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In this episode, I’m joined by Patricia Pulham, Professor of Victorian Literature at The University of Surrey, to discuss Vernon Lee’s collection of supernatural tales, Hauntings (1890).  

The book collects four of Vernon Lee’s ghost stories, ‘Amour Dure’, ‘Dionea’, ‘Oke of Okehurst’, and ‘A Wicked Voice’, which together represent some of the finest examples of the genre, and reflect Lee’s deep engagement with Italian art, her sensitivity to place, and her imaginative relationship with the vestigial, fragmentary manifestations of history. 

Over the course of the programme, we discuss Lee’s preference for a more restrained form of horror, her evocation of the settings in her texts, and take an in-depth look at music in her story, ‘A Wicked Voice’. 

Bibliography:

Art and the Transitional Object in Vernon Lee's Supernatural Tales by Patricia Pulham (Ashgate Publishing, 2008)

Vernon Lee: Decadence, Ethics, Aesthetics ed. Patricia Pulham, Catherine Maxwell (Palgrave, 2006)

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography by Vineta Colby, (University of Virgina Press, 2003). 

Apr 29 2019

1hr 18mins

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Rank #12: #9 The Wind by Dorothy Scarborough

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‘The Wind’ concerns the fate of Letty, a young girl plucked out of a life of ease in Virginia and forced to move to the plains of Sweetwater, Texas at the height of a terrible drought in the 1880s.  Letty struggles to acclimatise in this new, hostile environment – its ugly, arid vistas and its harsh manners – but it is the incessant wind that strikes her most deeply.  As her isolation increases, she begins mentally to imbue the wind with supernatural power, coming to believe that it intends to destroy her and everything she holds dear. 

Jun 20 2018

1hr 2mins

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Rank #13: #15 Beirut Nightmares by Ghada Samman

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Ghada Samman’s ‘Beirut Nightmares’ was originally published in Arabic in 1976.  Set at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, this autobiographical novel concerns two weeks in the life of a journalist and writer living at the heart of the warzone.  With the conflict raging outside,  and snipers on every corner, she is unable to leave her flat.  The horror of the waking world soon finds its way into the dreamscape where disembodied limbs roam the flaming streets, and mannequins come to life.

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the strange mixture of realistic depictions of war and fantastical nightmares, boredom as a literary theme, and the clash between ideology and aesthetics within the novel.

Bibliography:

Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide 1873-1999 (2008, The American University in Cairo Press)

‘Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghada Al-Samman 1961-1975’ by Hanan Awwad, reviewed by Miriam Cooke (Al-'Arabiyya, Vol. 17, No. 1/2 (Spring & Autumn 1984), pp. 129-133

‘The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales’ by Ghada Samman and Issa J. Boullata, reviewed by Evelyne Accad (World Literature Today, Vol. 73, No. 4, Celebrating Czesław Miłosz (Autumn, 1999), pp. 811-812

Dec 19 2018

1hr 6mins

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Rank #14: #16 The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen

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One contemporary reviewer referred to The Hill of Dreams (1907) as the “study, rather than the story, of a morbid temperament.” Often regarded as Machen’s masterpiece, this beautiful and idiosyncratic novel concerns the short life of a young writer, Lucian Taylor, and follows his journey from the Welsh countryside of his boyhood to the squalor of late 19th-century London. In an attempt to commune with a reality beyond our own, a plane of existence accessible only to the true artistic visionary, Lucian sacrifices himself and becomes a martyr to aesthetic ideals.

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the book’s place within the decadent movement, Machen’s moral position regarding his main character, and the traces of opium that stain the novel’s pages.

Bibliography:

‘Arthur Machen: Ecstasy and Epiphany’ by NIcholas Freeman in Literature and Theology, Vol. 24, No. 3 (September 2010), pp. 242-255

‘Abominable Transformations: Becoming-Fungus in Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams’ by Anthony Camara in The EcoGothic in the Long Nineteenth Century (Manchester University Press)

Mark Valentine’s ‘Introduction’ in The Hill of Dreams (1907) by Arthur Machen (Tartarus Press)

The Friends of Arthur Machen website: http://www.arthurmachen.org.uk/

‘Lucian in the Labyrinth: London Locations in The Hill of Dreams’ in The Library of the Lost : In Search of Forgotten Authors by Roger Dobson (Caermaen Books and Tartarus Press, 2015)

Decadent and Occult Works by Arthur Machen, ed. by Denis Denisoff (Modern Humanities Research Association, 2018)

The Paris Notebooks (2017) by Quentin S. Crisp

Feb 02 2019

1hr 20mins

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Rank #15: #7 I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasieński

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Jasieński’s I Burn Paris upset the French authorities enough to have him expelled from the country upon its publication . The story concerns a plague that breaks out in Paris, which exposes the worst tendencies of the city’s inhabitants.  As the death toll rises, the city breaks down and groups begin to isolate themselves according to ethnicity, nationality and ideology.   In today’s political climate, the book is perhaps more relevant than ever and serves as a stark warning about the perils of isolationism.

Over the course of the episode, we look at I Burn Paris in the light of Jasieński life and politics, consider the influence Futurism on the novel, and explore the communist message its core.

Bibliography

Nina Kolesnikoff, Bruno Jasieński: His Evolution from Futurism to Socialist Realism (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983)

Marci Shore, Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generations Life and Death in Marxism 1918 - 1968 (Yale University Press, 2006)

Aleksandr Wat, My Century (University of California Press, 1988), trans. Richard Lourie

Excerpt from Jasieński's poem read by Andrzej Girdwoyń - wolnelektury.pl

Mar 31 2018

1hr 6mins

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#32 Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

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Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo was originally published in Spanish in 1955.  The book is published by Serpent’s Tail, the translation is by Margaret Sayers Peden and the readings in this episode are by Jakub Blank.  

The book concerns the journey of a young man to his mother’s native village of Comala, where he will search for his father, the elusive figure, Pedro Páramo.  What he finds upon his arrival is a ghost town, the spectral image of a once vital community whose voices rise up to assail him with lamentations from beyond the grave.  Somewhere within this chorus of the dead unfolds the tale of the landowner, Don Pedro, whose iron grip upon the town may well have been the source of its desolation. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss Rulfo’s intriguing use of structure, Mexican rituals surrounding death, and the brutality of its central character.  

Bibliography: 

‘The Fractal Structure of Pedro Páramo: Comala, When Will You Rest?’ by Elizabeth Sánchez in Hispania, Vol. 86, No. 2 (May, 2003)

‘Landscape and Loss in Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo’ by M. Ian Adams in Chasqui, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Nov., 1979) 

‘Introduction to Juan Rulfo’s Naming Strategies in Pedro Páramo’ by Margaret V. Ekstrom in Literary Onomastics Studies (1979) 

Aug 05 2020

1hr 19mins

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#31 The Child Cephalina: An Interview with Rebecca Lloyd

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In this episode, I spoke to the writer, Rebecca Lloyd, about her novel, The Child Cephalina (2019), which is published by Tartarus Press:

Rebecca Lloyd’s superb Gothic novel explores friendship, obsession and the uncanny in teeming mid-Victorian London. At its heart is a tale of human relationships threatened by an unknowable force.’

From the very first, the child Cephalina brought conflict into the otherwise peaceful, if eccentric, household at number 12 Judd Street. Robert’s fascination with her was instant, but he could never decide if this eleven-year-old was innocent and lonely, or clever and manipulative. It worried him. His encounters with her were both enchanting and unnerving. All the while his devotion to her was growing, until in the end, nothing could save him from a fate he would never have believed could be his . . .

Find out more about Rebecca Lloyd’s work at her website: beccalloyd.org

More information about Tartarus Press can be found here: tartaruspress.com

Over the course of the episode we discuss spiritualism in the nineteenth century, Henry Mayhew, who was the inspiration for the novel’s narrator, and consider some of the taboo relationships depicted in the novel.

The readings in this episode are by Luke Younger.

Jul 18 2020

53mins

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#30 Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy

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Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy was originally published in Italian in 1989.  The English translation is by Tim Parks, and the book is published by And Other Stories.   The novel concerns the early years in the life of a young student at an exclusive boarding school in the Swiss mountains.  Throughout the book, her strained relationship with her environment, her peers, and her inner self are subject to cold examination. In crystalline, almost clinical, prose, all is dissected and laid bare - the innocent exterior of school life is peeled away, and the rotting core exposed. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the corrosive effects of school life, Jaeggy’s treatment of sexuality, and the themes of death and decay that permeate the text.

May 14 2020

52mins

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#29 Cinnamon Shops by Bruno Schulz

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Cinnamon Shops, a collection of short stories by Bruno Schulz, was originally published in Polish in 1934.   In this episode, we discuss this classic of Polish literature in its most recent translation by Madeline G. Levine, which is published by Northwestern University Press.  My guest is Stefan Głowacki and the readings are by Marceli Sommer. 

In these magnificent autobiographical stories, Schulz writes about the sleepy town of Drohobych where grew up, transforming it into a mythical landscape in which every object blushes under the intensity of his gaze.  

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the importance of Schulz’s critical text, mityzacja rzeczywistości (The Mythologising of Reality), which some have called his manifesto.  We also debate his similarity to Franz Kafka, and examine the figure of the father in Schulz’s aesthetic project.  

The artwork for this episode is ‘Night Walk’ by Alicja Nikodem, which she based on Shculz’s stories.  More of her work can be found here: http://www.alicjanikodem.com/

Bibliography:

Regions of the Great Heresy: Bruno Schulz, a Biographical Portrait by Jerzy Ficowski (W. W. Norton, 2003), trans. Theodosia S. Robertson

Opowiadania. Wybór esejów i listów (Wydawnictwo ossolineum, 1989) ed. Jerzy Jarzębski 

Apr 19 2020

1hr 12mins

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#28 Dhalgren by Samuel R Delany

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Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren was originally published in 1975. Since its publication, Dhalgren has had its fair share of proponents and enemies - it has been called both the best and the worst book ever to come out of the field of science fiction.  Over the course of its eight-hundred pages, we follow our main character, the Kid, as he wanders listlessly through devastated city of Bellona, located somewhere in the United States on the border between utopia and dystopia.  It is a city where time dilates and contracts, buildings spontaneously combust, obscuring mists curl through the streets.  And here, all society’s misfits and outcasts have gathered under its twin moons.   

In this conversation we discuss the extent to which Dhalgren can be considered science fiction, examine the role of its metafictional games, and think about its presentation of racial and sexual politics.  

The readings in this episode are by Daniel Mills, host of the true crime podcast, These Dark Mountains: https://thesedarkmountains.com/

Bibliography:

‘The Convergence of Postmodern Innovative Fiction and Science Fiction: An Encounter with Samuel R. Delany's Technotopia’ by Teresa L. Ebert Poetics Today, Vol. 1, No. 4, Narratology II: The Fictional Text and the Reader (Duke University Press, Summer, 1980)

‘Rites of Reversal: Double Consciousness in Delany's Dhalgren’ by Mary Kay Bray in lack American Literature Forum, Vol. 18, No. 2, Science Fiction Issue (Summer, 1984)

‘Playing at Birth: Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren’ by Todd A Comer in Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Summer, 2005) 

https://lithub.com/dont-romanticize-science-fiction-an-interview-with-samuel-delany/

Apr 10 2020

1hr 26mins

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#27 The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers

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The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers was originally published in Spanish in 1950.  The translation was made by Kit Maude and the book is published by The Feminist Press.   On her thirtieth birthday, the main character, Rebeca Linke undergoes a violent physical and mental transformation. She leaves her home in only an overcoat and wanders through the local forests and fields. When she is spotted in broad daylight, divested of her clothes, the event sends tremors through the rural village, penetrating the hearts, bodies and minds of its inhabitants.  Some view her as the return of Eve, some as a malignant curse.  In either case, the village must confront this happening, and undergo its own transformation. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the author’s violent expression of feminine autonomy, consider it in the context of the gothic, and examine the response of a staid patriarchal society to the concept of feminine desire. 

The readings in this episode are by Gaja Hajdarowicz.

Bibliography:

‘Armonía Somers’ Permeable Boundaries’ by Alexandra Fitts in Hispanófila, No. 137 (2003), pp. 101-114 

‘Gótico y género: El viaje decapitado de "La mujer desnuda”’ by Nadina Olmedo in Letras Femeninas Vol. 36, No. 2 (I2010), pp. 215-227 

Women's Voices from Latin America: Interviews with Six Contemporary Authors (Wayne State University Press, 1987) ed. Evelyn Picon Garfield

https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/on-translating-armonia-somerss-the-naked-woman-kit-maude

Feb 08 2020

1hr 1min

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#26 Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

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Octavia Butler’s Bloochild and Other Stories was originally published in 1995.  The book collects seven stories from throughout Butler’s career, and in this episode we focus on the title story, which depicts a social and sexual relationship between humans and a race of alien beings.  Later, we discuss the penultimate story in the collection, Amnesty, which explores the complexities of confrontation with the alien other.   

Over the course of the episode, we examine the degree to which the stories may be said to engage with slavery and American history, and consider Butler’s implementation of the ‘pregnant man’ motif. 

Bibliography:

‘Mama's Baby, Papa's Slavery? The Problem and Promise of Mothering in Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild’ by Kristen Lillvis in MELUS, Vol. 39, No. 4, Gender, Transnationalism, and Ethnic American Identity (Winter, 2014)

Octavia E. Butler: Modern Masters of Science Fiction (University of Illinois, 2016)  by Gerry Canavan

Dec 05 2019

1hr 5mins

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#25 The Mainz Psalter by Jean Ray

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Jean Ray’s The Mainz Psalter was originally published in 1930.   We read the story in Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s anothology, The Weird, and the translation is by Lowell Blair. The story tells the grizzly tale of The Mainz Psalter, a ship en route to Greenland under the ownership of the shadowy figure of the schoolmaster, with a purpose that remains a mystery to its crew.  As the ship sails deeper into northern waters, reality begins to bend in peculiar directions and the crew’s number dwindles.  Those who remain have doubts as to whether this is indeed the reality they had known. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the literary lineage of Jean Ray’s tale, its relationship with cosmic horror, and the peculiar treatment of religion within the text.

The music in this episode is by Penitent Whisper. You can hear more of their music here: https://penitentwhisper.bandcamp.com/releases

Bibliography: 

Lyrical Ballads (1798) by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’  (1927) by H. P. Lovecraft

The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Wells

http://weirdfictionreview.com/2011/11/ghosts-fear-and-parallel-worlds-the-supernatural-fiction-of-jean-ray/

Oct 30 2019

52mins

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#24 One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard

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Caradog Prichard’s One Moonlit Night was originally published in Welsh in 1961.    The book is a classic of Welsh literature, which though greatly admired in its native country, is still shamefully neglected in the English-speaking world.  Set in a small village in North Wales, One Moonlit Night is the breathless monologue of a young boy who unveils the sorrows and torments, the ecstasies and revelations of a poverty stricken, but close-knit community as it weathers the distant storm of the First World War.  

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the significance of The Great War in the book, Prichard’s narratorial style, and consider whether One Moonlit Night may be thought of as a political novel.  

The wonderful readings in this episode are by Tris Rhys, a listener who very kindly offered his services and his Welsh-language skills, for which we’re very grateful.  

Bibliography:

Welsh Gothic by Jane Aaron (University of Wales Press, 2013) 

https://www.walesartsreview.org/the-winner-of-the-greatest-welsh-novel-is-un-nos-ola-leuad-by-caradog-prichard/

https://biography.wales/article/s10-PRIC-CAR-1904#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=26&manifest=https%3A%2F%2Fdamsssl.llgc.org.uk%2Fiiif%2F2.0%2F4633846%2Fmanifest.json

Oct 27 2019

1hr 10mins

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#23 Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

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Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope MIrrlees was originally published in 1926.   Lud-in-the-Mist is the name of the capital city of the fictional free state of Dorimare, a country which shares a border with Fairyland, just across The Debatable Hills.   Centuries ago, under the rule of Duke Aubrey, Fairy things had been part of life and culture in Dorimare.  After a violent revolution, a new merchant class took over the country.  Duke Aubrey was expelled and all mention of Fairies and Fairy lore became taboo.  The smuggling of hallucination-inducing fairy fruit into Dorimare continues, however, behind closed doors. When Nathaniel Chanticleer, the Mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist finds that his son has ingested some of this heinous fruit, the old ways, the traditions and romance of the Fairies can no longer be ignored.

Over the course of the episode, we discuss the methods Mirrlees’ novel has in common with Modernist practice, the various allegorical interpretations that offer themselves throughout the text, and the emergent class politics suggested by her depiction of the fairy folk.

Bibliography:

Attebury, Brian, ‘“Make it Old”: The Other Mythic Method’ in The Mirror of the Past, ed. Bogdan Trocha, Aleksander Rzyman, Tomasz Ratajczak (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014)

Mirrlees, Hope, Collected Poems, ed. Sandeep Parmar, (Fyfield Books, 2011) 

Sep 23 2019

1hr 9mins

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#22 The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

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The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas was originally published in Nynorsk in 1957, and is available from Peter Owen books and now also as a Penguin Modern Classics  edition.  The translation is by Michael Barnes and Torbjorn Stoverud.  The central character of The Birds is Mattis, a mentally disabled man, living with his sister in a small rural community in Norway.   We observe Mattis as he attempts to navigate the obstacles of everyday life - the obligations of work, family relationships and even romantic love.  Mattis’ transcendental, or even visionary inner life, keenly evoked by Vesaas’ spare and lucid prose, is far richer than it appears to those around him.  At the core of the novel, is Mattis’ struggle with the border between experience and expression in a world where birds seem to understand more than people.  

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the role of the woodcock as a symbol, Vesaas’ sensitive and generous treatment of mental disability, and the possibility of viewing Mattis as an artist figure.

Jul 19 2019

1hr 6mins

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#21 Graves: An Interview with Quentin S. Crisp

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On this episode of Sherds Podcast, I’m joined by writer, Quentin S. Crisp, to discuss his new novel, Graves (2019), published by Snuggly Books, who give the following description of the book:

In Graves, Damien, a male nurse and self-styled ‘thanatophile’, is in love with death in its purer and more ideal form. However, as he casts around for some authentic way to defy the void of modernity, his thanatophilia is swiftly and insidiously corrupted. Scavenging what ‘materials’ he can, he works in isolation like a reverse Doctor Frankenstein, wishing to understand the secrets of death, not life, in order to break the narrative power of science over the modern mind.

Set against the backdrop of anomie-drenched 21st-century London, Graves, Quentin S. Crisp’s second major novel, is a work of Gothic horror that confronts the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness in a world where it is easier to believe in artificial intelligence than human intelligence.

Over the course of the programme we discuss the influence of Japanese Literature on Crisp’s work, the importance of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Graves, and the moral complexities of antinatalism.

Footnotes:

Some of the authors mentioned by Crisp throughout the programme are:

Nagai Kafu - you can read about Quentin S. Crisp’s relationship with this writer here: https://mathewfriley.com/2010/08/quentin-s-crisp-the-book-i-would-like-to-be-buried-with/

Justin Isis - http://justinisis.blogspot.com/ - whose two collections of stories, I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like (2011), and Welcome to the Arms Race (2015) are both published by Chômu Press: http://chomupress.com/

Jeremy Reed - http://www.jeremyreed.co.uk/

Zdravka Evtimova - http://www.contemporarybulgarianwriters.com/1-writers/evtimova-zdravka/

Brendan Connell - whose novel, Clark (2016), is singled out for special mention: http://www.snugglybooks.co.uk/clark/

About the Author:

Quentin S. Crisp was born in 1972, in North Devon, UK. He studied Japanese at the University of Durham and graduated in 2000. He has had fiction published by Tartarus Press, PS Publishing, Eibonvale Press and others. He currently resides in Bexleyheath, and is editor for Chômu Press.

May 26 2019

1hr 27mins

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#20 Hauntings by Vernon Lee

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In this episode, I’m joined by Patricia Pulham, Professor of Victorian Literature at The University of Surrey, to discuss Vernon Lee’s collection of supernatural tales, Hauntings (1890).  

The book collects four of Vernon Lee’s ghost stories, ‘Amour Dure’, ‘Dionea’, ‘Oke of Okehurst’, and ‘A Wicked Voice’, which together represent some of the finest examples of the genre, and reflect Lee’s deep engagement with Italian art, her sensitivity to place, and her imaginative relationship with the vestigial, fragmentary manifestations of history. 

Over the course of the programme, we discuss Lee’s preference for a more restrained form of horror, her evocation of the settings in her texts, and take an in-depth look at music in her story, ‘A Wicked Voice’. 

Bibliography:

Art and the Transitional Object in Vernon Lee's Supernatural Tales by Patricia Pulham (Ashgate Publishing, 2008)

Vernon Lee: Decadence, Ethics, Aesthetics ed. Patricia Pulham, Catherine Maxwell (Palgrave, 2006)

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography by Vineta Colby, (University of Virgina Press, 2003). 

Apr 29 2019

1hr 18mins

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#19 Forest of a Thousand Daemons by D. O. Fagunwa

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D. O. Fagunwa’s Forest of a Thousand Daemons was first published in 1938; it marks the first full-length novel published in Yoruba and has become a classic work of African literature. The delightfully rich translation is by the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka and is published by City Lights Books.

The book concerns the life of the brave hunter, Akara-Ogun, whose encounters with spirits, bog-trolls and other supernatural creatures are related orally with great flair for an enraptured audience which grows bigger with each night’s telling, and an author who takes down the hunter’s words that they might provide a record of his days upon this earth.

The book stands at a crossroads between oral and written culture, between Christianity and traditional Yoruba beliefs, and takes place in a world in which the boundary between the natural and the supernatural is a distinctly porous one. To open its covers is to witness this complex metamorphosis taking place.

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the choices Wole Soyinka makes in his translation, religious syncretism, and the strong emphasis the book places on the body.

Bibliography:

‘Compound of Spells: The Predicament of D. O. Fagunwa’ by Olakunle George in Research in African Literatures, Vol. 28, No. 1, The Oral-Written Interface (Spring, 1997), pp. 78-97 (Indiana University Press)

An interview with Anthony Olajide Fayemi: https://www.thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2014/05/hidden-facts-about-fagunwa/

Apr 22 2019

1hr 12mins

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#18 The Witches of Kyiv by Orest Somov

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The Witches of Kyiv and Other Gothic Tales collects a range of stories by Ukrainian Romantic author, Orest Somov which were originally published between 1827 and 1833.  This collection comes from Sova Books and the translations are by Svitlana Yakovenko.  The book also features a helpful glossary and annotations, as well as excellent introduction by Svitlana Krys.  

Though written in Russian, these gothic tales draw heavily on Ukrainian folklore, and introduce a distinctly regional flavour to the palette of the Romantic literature of the 1820s and ‘30s.  Bold Cossack warriors, perilously seductive water sprites, and cunning witches haunt the pages of the collection, and bring into being the theories espoused by Somov in his seminal essay of 1823, ‘On Romantic Poetry’.  

In this episode, I’m joined by Dr Keith Walmsley to discuss the work and influence of this forgotten innovator of Romantic prose in Russian. Over the course of the programme, we discuss Somov’s role as the originator of many motifs that will echo throughout Russian and Ukrainian literature, consider his relationship with Russia, and examine the import of the various folkloric figures which populate his tales.   

Bibliography:

‘Orest Somov: An Introduction’ by John Mersereau in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 43, No. 101 (June, 1965), pp. 354-370 (the Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London)

The Holy Fool in Russian Culture by Eva Thompson (University Press of America, 1987)

Russian Romantic Criticism: An Anthology edited by Lauren G. Leighton (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987)

Russia and Ukraine: Literature and the Discourse of Empire from Napoleonic to Postcolonial Times (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2001) 

Были и небылицы, Орест Михайлович Сомов (Сов. Россия, 1984)

Mar 31 2019

1hr 8mins

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#17 The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

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Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall was originally published in German in 1963.  Our protagonist and narrator is a woman in her 40s. While visiting friends at a hunting lodge in rural Austria, she finds herself divorced from all human contact when an invisible wall descends, cutting her small region off from the rest of the world.  She is quickly forced into a struggle to survive, and must learn to become self-sufficient. Willingly or not, she must become the ruler of her own destiny.   Often interpreted as an allegory of female emancipation, this Robinsonade places questions of identity and society at its core by describing a world in which their very existence becomes questionable. 

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the rich interpretive possibilities the book offers, delve into its treatment of nature, and ponder the recurrent reading of the novel as a feminist text.

The readings in this episode were performed by Ola Wittchen

Bibliography:

Wahrscheinlich bin ich verrückt: Marlen Haushofer - Die Biographie by Daniela Strigl (List, 2007)

marlenhaushofer.ch

Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe

‘Marlen Haushofer–eine Feministin aus Österreich’ by Dagmar C. G. Lorenz in Modern Austrian Literature, Vol. 12, No. 3/4, Special Issue on Austrian Women Writers (1979), pp. 171-191

‘Behind the Transparent Wall Marlen Haushofer's Novel "Die Wand"‘ by Hugo Caviola in Modern Austrian Literature, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1991), pp. 100-112

Mar 04 2019

1hr 15mins

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#16 The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen

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One contemporary reviewer referred to The Hill of Dreams (1907) as the “study, rather than the story, of a morbid temperament.” Often regarded as Machen’s masterpiece, this beautiful and idiosyncratic novel concerns the short life of a young writer, Lucian Taylor, and follows his journey from the Welsh countryside of his boyhood to the squalor of late 19th-century London. In an attempt to commune with a reality beyond our own, a plane of existence accessible only to the true artistic visionary, Lucian sacrifices himself and becomes a martyr to aesthetic ideals.

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the book’s place within the decadent movement, Machen’s moral position regarding his main character, and the traces of opium that stain the novel’s pages.

Bibliography:

‘Arthur Machen: Ecstasy and Epiphany’ by NIcholas Freeman in Literature and Theology, Vol. 24, No. 3 (September 2010), pp. 242-255

‘Abominable Transformations: Becoming-Fungus in Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams’ by Anthony Camara in The EcoGothic in the Long Nineteenth Century (Manchester University Press)

Mark Valentine’s ‘Introduction’ in The Hill of Dreams (1907) by Arthur Machen (Tartarus Press)

The Friends of Arthur Machen website: http://www.arthurmachen.org.uk/

‘Lucian in the Labyrinth: London Locations in The Hill of Dreams’ in The Library of the Lost : In Search of Forgotten Authors by Roger Dobson (Caermaen Books and Tartarus Press, 2015)

Decadent and Occult Works by Arthur Machen, ed. by Denis Denisoff (Modern Humanities Research Association, 2018)

The Paris Notebooks (2017) by Quentin S. Crisp

Feb 02 2019

1hr 20mins

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#15 Beirut Nightmares by Ghada Samman

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Ghada Samman’s ‘Beirut Nightmares’ was originally published in Arabic in 1976.  Set at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, this autobiographical novel concerns two weeks in the life of a journalist and writer living at the heart of the warzone.  With the conflict raging outside,  and snipers on every corner, she is unable to leave her flat.  The horror of the waking world soon finds its way into the dreamscape where disembodied limbs roam the flaming streets, and mannequins come to life.

Over the course of the programme, we discuss the strange mixture of realistic depictions of war and fantastical nightmares, boredom as a literary theme, and the clash between ideology and aesthetics within the novel.

Bibliography:

Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide 1873-1999 (2008, The American University in Cairo Press)

‘Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghada Al-Samman 1961-1975’ by Hanan Awwad, reviewed by Miriam Cooke (Al-'Arabiyya, Vol. 17, No. 1/2 (Spring & Autumn 1984), pp. 129-133

‘The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales’ by Ghada Samman and Issa J. Boullata, reviewed by Evelyne Accad (World Literature Today, Vol. 73, No. 4, Celebrating Czesław Miłosz (Autumn, 1999), pp. 811-812

Dec 19 2018

1hr 6mins

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#14 The Human Chair by Edogawa Rampo

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Edogawa Rampo’s short story, ‘The Human Chair’,was originally published in Japanese in 1925.  The story is taken from the collection, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, translated by James B. Harris, and published by Tuttle Publishing.  ‘The Human Chair’ is a tale of the grotesque in which a master carpenter entombs himself inside a chair in order to gain the intimacy that society has denied him.  The longer he spends inside the chair, pressed close to the bodies of strangers, the harder it becomes to return to his ordinary life.  As well as being a superb example of the uncanny tale, ‘The Human Chair’ is a rich palimpsest that reveals layer upon layer of sexual, social and national anxietie: s. 

Over the course of the episode, we discuss Edgar Allan Poe’s influence in Japan, the combination of the erotic and the grotesque, and consider how this tale straddles the border between the horrific and the horrible.

Bibliography:

Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities (1999) ed. by Lois Davis Vines (University of Iowa Press)

Stalking (2006) by Bran Nicol (Reaktion Books)

‘“Anxieties of Influence” Edogawa Rampo’s Horrifying Hybrids’ in Purloined Letters (2008) by Mark Silver (University of Hawaii Press)

‘Deviance and Social Darwinism in Edogawa Ranpo's Erotic-Grotesque Thriller "Kotō no oni"‘ by Jim Reichert in The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Winter, 2001)

Oct 30 2018

1hr 2mins

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#13 The Dying Peasant by Karel van de Woestijne

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Karel van de Woestijne’s novella, ‘The Dying Peasant’, was originally published in Dutch in 1918.  It is now available for the first time in an unabridged translation by Paul Vincent, published by Snuggly Books.   The book concerns an elderly farmer, Nand, who lies on his deathbed and is visited by five figures, each representing the one of the five senses.  As the fragmentary reflections occasioned by these sensory avatars tell the rich story of Nand’s life, van de Woestijne evokes a deep reverence for the surface of things, and the simplicity and beauty of ordinary life. 

Oct 28 2018

54mins

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What a literary podcast should be.

By merryhaddock - Sep 12 2019
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Works of fiction should haunt the reader. Sherds podcast haunts the listener. A podcast of unusual, decadent and surreal literature, wonderfuly produced and thoughtfully discussed, interwoven with excellent readings and atmospheric compositions. For anyone who loves books and the written word this podcast is a must.

Explorations of neglected literary works

By Manhog - Jan 17 2018
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I've enjoyed the first few episodes of the Sherds Podcast very much. The show focuses on lesser-known titles from literary history, often those with a mystical or naturist bent (naturist in the sense of nature worship, and not so much in the sense of bare bums). The discussion format brings out a lot of interesting angles, and encourages the listener to investigate great forgotten works that may have slipped into obscurity prematurely.