Our review of “The Enigma and Other Stories” by Walter de la Mare ∂ HorrorMagazine

The Enigma and Other Stories presents for the first time in Italy the most important collection of short stories by the Englishman Walter de la Mare, originally published in 1923

Edizioni Hypnos presents for the first time to the Italian public the anthology of Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), entitled The Enigma and Other Stories.

The figure of Walter de la Mare is fully part of the golden and precious fantasy vein of English literature. His work is considered – despite moderate success with the public and the appreciations of Graham Greene, Dylan Thomas And TS Eliot – that of a minor poet, of a cultured and marginal scholar and “esthete”.

He didn’t think so HP Lovecraft which, in the essay Supernatural Horror in Literaturewrites:

we are faced with a powerful artist for whom the mysterious invisible world is always a close and vital reality.

And he adds:

De la Mare does not make horror the only element of his stories, or at least, he does not make it the dominant element, since he is clearly more interested in the study of characters.

We are therefore in the presence of an underrated author who, indeed, with his psychological and spiritual horror inspired the narrative of a great writer like Robert Aickman.

Not all of his production is related to the fantastic as demonstrated by the novel The miniature woman starring a dwarf (possible representation of an alchemical symbol) and her difficult experiences with reality. So in this volume not all stories are supernatural but, not for this reason, they are devoid of a dark and timeless charm that makes them unique.

The almond treefor example, is exemplary in creating a mysterious and elusive atmosphere. The point of view is that of children: their warped “vision” of reality, as we will also see in other stories in this collection, gives a particular touch to the whole story.

But even when the supernatural peeps out, as in the masterpiece story From the depths, one has the sensation of being faced with the emergence of ghostly larvae buried in the unconscious. In an almost sacred atmosphere, the protagonist Jimmie lives in a semi-uninhabited house, inherited from his uncle. And slowly, “from the depths” of the house, in the nocturnal solitude, mysterious creatures come to light.

Of this very atmosphere, James Ortolani writes in the afterword:

right from the title, the writer subtly alarms the reader: something not very reassuring awaits him, whether it comes from the depths of the vast house or from the much more labyrinthine ones of Jimmie’s memory.

The short story that gives the title to this anthology, The riddleis instead a macabre fairy tale. The author wanted to include it in a book of children’s stories, albeit a truly terrifying one.

Also The mirror it is remarkable in evoking a dimension with blurred and not very reassuring edges. The young protagonist Alice, driven by the influence of another level of reality, dreams of escaping from the wall that borders her house. The ending is dark and disturbing.

Seaton’s aunt is another classic of the English writer. Once again the protagonists are children who, thanks to their innocence, possess an uncontaminated imagination and are real “visionaries”. Here the young Arthur, a problematic and introverted child mocked by his companions, describes his aunt Seaton as a witch with dark powers.

In general we are dealing with a high-level collection that shows us the author at his best.

Walter de la Mare was a great poet of the supernatural and of nightmares and his elusive and vague universe, populated by mysterious characters, never ceases to haunt our most distressing dreams.

Our review of “The Enigma and Other Stories” by Walter de la Mare ∂ HorrorMagazine