Ithell Colquhoun was a leading British surrealist artist and writer, whose love of the esoteric and the occult had a profound influence on her work. No where is this more apparent than in the weird and wonderful alchemical novel Goose of Hermogenes.
The unnamed heroine of this story is compelled to visit a mysterious uncle – a black magician who lords over a kind of Prospero’s island that exists out of time and space. Startled by his bizarre behaviour and odd nocturnal movements, she eventually learns that he is searching for the Philosopher’s Stone. When his sinister attentions fall upon an heirloom – a priceless jewel in her possession – bewilderment turns to stark terror. She realises she must find a way off the island …
Goose of Hermogenes is an esoteric dreamworld fantasy composed of uncorrelated scenes and imagery – mostly derived from medieval occult sources – that repay several readings. Each chapter in the book has a title relevant to a stage in the alchemical process. However one wants to approach this obscure tale, it remains today as vividly unforgettable and disturbing as when it was first published by Peter Owen in 1961.
‘Lurks somewhere between the territory of Beardsley and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast … shudderingly enjoyable.' – Guardian
‘The whole novel possesses a haunting, visionary quality most uncommon in present-day prose.’ – Daily Telegraph
‘An extraordinary book … the descriptions have a gripping hallucinogenic clarity … Part Gothic fantasy, part emblematic progress through a dream world where we are never sure we have the complete key to the meaning, we see the workings of a perceptive and curious painterly eye.’ – Mandrake Speaks
ITHELL COLQUHOUN (1906–1988) was a painter and writer who, along with Eileen Agar and Leonora Carrington, was one of the best-known English women surrealists. A friend of André Breton, she was also associated with Aleister Crowley. Her writing has been compared to that of William Blake and Walter de la Mare - the latter being a fan of her work.
|Date Published||3rd August 2003|