Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts and quotes: The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

The Call of Cthulhu (1926) is written in a documentary style, in three parts. The narrator recounts his discovery of notes written by his granduncle George Gammell Angell.

The narrator, among the notes, finds a bas-relief sculpture. It shows an octopus, or a dragon, or a human caricature. Henry Anthony Wilcox, who based his work on dreams of great Cyclopean cities, is the author of the sculpture. Wilcox’s dreams happened in March, April 1925, and during the same time in every angle of the world there were cases of group folly.

‘The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity … but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality … that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.’ (page 139)

The second part of The Call of Cthulhu, is The Tale of Inspector Legrasse: Legrasse assists at a meeting of people venerating a statuette, and repeating:
‘In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.’
Legrasse, as police inspector, arrests some people and takes the statuette. The statuette has close resemblances with Wilcox’s bas-relief.

‘Those first men formed the cult around small idols which the Great Ones shewed them; idols bought in dim aeras from dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume this rule on earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild beyond good and evil.’ (page 155)

‘the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any man, and who came to the young world out of the sky.’ (page 153)

The Madness from the Sea is the third part of The Call of Cthulhu. The narrator after reading the notes, investigates on Cthulhu Cult. Casually he reads an article about a derelict ship with only one survivor, Gustav Johansen.
The narrator reads in a diary written by Johansen that they have been attacked by another ship; eventually they have defeated the attackers and sailed toward an uncharted island.
‘The thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order.’ (page 167)

About the Joshi’s note regarding an obvious Lovecraft’s reference to Nietzsche, the editor quotes Lovecraft: ‘let me state clearly that I do not swallow him (Nietzsche) whole.’ The note is referred to the Nietzsche’s idea of morality, beyond evil and good. Although I agree with Joshi about morality, I’d like to suggest interesting connections between Lovecraft and Thus Spake Zarathustra by Nietzsche.

‘Some day he would call, when the stars were ready and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.’ (page 154)

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