PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
M. Phocas reveals, indeed revels, in this literary incest as the 'diabolical Englishman', Claudius Ethal, a snobbish painter, seeks to corrupt the narrator - by sending him Goya prints. A Curiosity.
'With Ethel’s friends, grotesque, ageing decadents, Phocas for the first time tastes opium. He experiences the pleasure of absolute degradation, and the double pleasure of being both observer and observed, dominant subject and passive object. As the opium takes effect, the naked Javanese dancers at the orgy vanish in a swirling cloud, to be replaced by a dark lamplit street where two thieves carefully saw at a woman’s throat with a delicate knifeblade. From this cruel vision, Phocas soars into dizzy flight from which, suddenly, he plunges to destruction, into oozing depths where clinging vampires suck his blood, until he almost swoons into spasms. The mysterious, vicious double is on the threshold of existence: Phocas sees himself as Giles de Retz in the forest of Tiffauges, haunted by obscene desires.'
'Comparisons have been drawn between Lorrain’s novel and the likes of Wilde and Huysmans, but many readers may also detect both narrative and thematic parallels with Ellis’ American Psycho. Both tales follow lead characters who present themselves as steeped in wealth and success as they glide through the upper echelons of their respective societies, and both are cursed with a proclivity for depraved acts of violence.'
'There is just so very much to say about this dark, dark novel that like Ethal's bizarre hold on Phocas, will certainly cast a spell on its reader. It is one of those books that refuses to let go, one that gets down deep into the psyche, making me wonder at several points where this story was taking me and sort of being afraid to move on because it was getting very deep into Phocas' head, which trust me, is a very scary place to be. Once again I fail to do this book justice -- it is another one that absolutely must be experienced on one's own. And I loved it. Very much recommended.'