Perhaps we are talking about the golden age of horror and fantasy narrative. That moment of time and customs in which modernity is not a reality, but can be freely dreamed of, and the old customs fade but bind like heavy iron chains. We are talking about the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th and preferably of a culture, the Anglo-Saxon, closely linked to psychological repression and lack of communication. In this breeding ground, geniuses such as Arthur Conan Doyle either H.P Lovecraft, with very different degrees of commercial success. While the former became a true star of his time, the latter was unknown in his, just as happened to Robert Chambers, who published “The King in Yellow” in 1895. a supernatural horror book from which Lovecraft would take elements for the famous universe, the “Necronomicon”.
It can be said of Chambers that he was one of the fathers of modern terror due to that magical combination between Victorian and sepulchral society and at the same time cultivated enough to believe in science and its ravings or distant universes. Also in man’s potential to ruin what should be progress. These ideas, added to the psychological discoveries that are made, not by chance, as the horror novel progresses, they will give shape to a mixture of components that Chambers captures with mastery. Lovecraft will be indebted to his ideas, although the latter must be recognized as having a greater modernity in the literary style.
“Fascinating and disgusting”
And it is that the author of “The Yellow King” was a peculiar man. While Lovecraft yearned for literary recognition, Chambers scoffed at the word literature: “it makes me sick,” he said. He was born in Brooklyn (1865 -1933) precisely the place where Lovecraft could never adapt. He moved to Paris and, upon his return, his intuition of evil, far removed from the Gothic archetype closely linked to religion, was captured in stories. Tales where a nightmarish, hallucinatory and dreamlike atmosphere is breathed. His stories, macabre and terrifying, invoke “a world of chaos and doom, fascinating and repugnant at the same time, which reminds us of some works by Meyrink and even Kafka himself”, as Valdemar, his Spanish-language publisher, recalls, which launched in 2019 a edition of this book. The stories of “The King in Yellow” mention the existence of a play so terrible that it induces madness in all who read it. Y From this circumstance, the myth was created that Chambers’ book was also dangerous, not in vain, it spoke of paranoia, thieves of souls and supernatural events that hung over men. He published a multitude of stories and continued to make fun of literature, devoting himself to it to pass the time. Obsessed with collecting objects and planting trees (they say he planted as many as 20,000 on his property), Lovecraft lamented that, at the end of his life, he became a “fallen titan” who wrote serials.