Our Books

The Other Side

Author: Alfred Kubin

Translator: Mike Mitchell   Cover design: Marie Lane   Cover illustration: Alfred Kubin  

Expressionist illustrator Kubin wrote this fascinating curio, his only literary work in 1908. A town named Pearl, assembled and presided over by the aptly named Patera, is the setting for his hallucinatory vision of a society founded on instinct over reason. Culminating apocalyptically - plagues of insects, mountains of corpses and orgies in the street - it is worth reading for its dizzying surrealism alone. Though ostensibly a gothic macabre fantasy, it is tempting to read The Other Side as a satire on the reactionary, idealist utopianism evident in German thought in the early twentieth century, highly prescient in its gloom, given later developments. The language often suggests Nietsche. The inevitable collapse of Patera's creation is lent added horror by hindsight. Kubin's depiction of absurd bureaucracy is strongly reminiscent of Kafka's The Trial, and his flawed utopia, situated next to a settlement of supposed savages, brings to mind Huxley's Brave New World; it precedes both novels, and this superb new translation could demonstrate its influence on subsequent modern literature.

Kieron Pim in Time Out

The danger of a purely ideological enterprise is exposed in this unusual novel first published in 1908, and which seems now to be horribly prescient about what the Nazis would perpetrate 30 years later. A “dream state” is created, where reason doesn’t matter, only instinct, and its full horrors are realised. Powerful but highly engaging too.

The Sunday Herald

A new translation of a phantasmagoric allegorical (1908) novel—the only one completed by the renowned Austrian expressionist graphic artist (1877–1959)—that has often been compared to Mervyn Peake’s fabulistic Gormenghast. It depicts its nameless narrator’s traumatic sojourn to a remote “Dream Realm” whose languorous calm is gradually destroyed by an outbreak of sleeping sickness, attacks by a “teeming multitude of animals,” and further derangements and catastrophes. Reminiscent as well of Witold Gombrowicz’s aggressively loopy psychodramas, The Other Side not only demolishes the very idea of Shangri-la; it may be a wry acknowledgement of the creative imagination’s perverse need for tension and trauma as stimulants. Blackly funny and boldly imagined, it’s an authentic modernist masterpiece.

Kirkus Reviews

Franz Kafka was one of the many admirers of this grotesque fantasy, which combines symbolist, expressionist and proto-surrealist devices. Mike Mitchell's accomplished translation manages to preserve the alluringly beautiful strangeness of the original and is accompanied by the author's illustrations... Anticipating the challenge to the distinction between dream and reality later propagated more loudly by the Surrealists, Kubin's novel is an important early work of avant-garde art. Inviting psychoanalytical and political readings, it deserves wider recognition, especially in the anglophone worl

Anna Katharina Schaffner in The Times Literary Supplement

A stunning exercise in subconscious dementia that preceded Kafka and the surrealists by nearly two decades. It was the only novel by the German artist Alfred Kubin, an adherent of the fantastic and grotesque best known for illustrating the works of Poe, Hoffman and Gustav Meyrink. THE OTHER SIDE, ably translated by Mike Mitchell, recalls all of those writers, but contains an aura that’s very much unique

Fright Magazine

Kubin wrote a novel, the phantasmagorical The Other Side, (1909), about a dream kingdom dedicated to the rejection of progress - “a place of asylum for those who are disgusted with modern culture.” Much admired by Hermann Hesse and Ernst Jünger, the book is also widely assumed to have influenced Kafka’s The Castle.

Christopher Benfy in The New York Review of Books

Although originally published in 1908, Kubin’s dystopian world is still awe striking today. Its strange logic, akin to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, shows the absurdism of bureaucratic nonsense. While the social quirkiness and word play, similar to Alice and Wonderland, creates a wonderfully dark and humorous atmosphere. Knowing the German origins of this novel, created before the World Wars, The Other Side reflects an interesting horror of following pure ideology with no reason or morality. When the newspaper Voice shouts ‘Vooooice! Get your Voice ‘ere!’, it echoes the underlying thought that continues throughout the novel; how much of your voice is yours, when so many things in life control you. This horrifically gripping storyline shows the grotesque nature of humanity, from deceit to murder, cruelness to sexual offenses, and personal control to dictatorship.

Buzz Magazine

The visual impact of his words is acute and enduring. He portrays graphic scenes of carnage as the ‘Realm of Dreams’, created in a secret location by its President Claus Patera, dis- integrates; a young nun is raped by pestilent creatures and a barber is strung up outside his shop. He meticulously paints an imagined world where – quite literally – the sun never shines and the creator (and bankroller) ensures that time stops as far as human progress is concerned. Hidden from the rest of the world, it is a provincial paean to nostalgia.

Scarlet MccGwire

I had ordered a copy of Kubin’s 1908 novel, The Other Side and was looking forward to reading this almost legendary, expressionist masterpiece, a macabre gothic fantasy about a Utopian society based on instinct rather than reason. (I chose Mike Mitchell’s translation, just reissued by England’s Dedalus Books.) Kubin, though, was primarily an artist, and he illustrated many of the visionary works of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Poe and Gustav Meyrink (author of The Golem).

Michael Dirda in The Washington Post

The Other Side completed in a fever of creativity following a protracted depression. It was admired by the Blau Reiter leaders Wasaily Kandinsky and Franc Marc, as well as by Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Ernst Junger and Stefan Zweig. The Other Side concerns a dream kingdom built in Asia as a sanctuary for artistically like-minded Europeans. But this utopian civilization is soon compromised by a sinister external force, symbolizing American culture. The kingdom fractures, descending into derangement and destruction... Uncanny, irrational, sometimes markedly gruesome scenes proliferate with dense swirling lines of black ink ensuring a perpetual twilight as the doomed city of Perle sinks into decline.

Will Stone in The Times Literary Supplement

RRP: £9.99

No. of pages: 252

Publication date: 01.08.2014

Re-print date: 25.08.2023

ISBN numbers:
978 1 91021303 2
978 1 907650 26 0

World English