Conrad Aiken vs. Haruki Murakami
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror August 12, 2014
What do you fear most about snow and ice? Fear of being buried in snow so deep you can’t breath? Fear of snow trapping you far away from others? Maybe you have a fear of ice freezing you to death. Or what about the horror of falling through the ice? And maybe these are just symbolic of other fears like a loved one freezing you out, or loneliness, insanity, emotional imprisonment. I don’t often do themes, but this week I grew thirsty for something chilling for August’s dog days of summer. So, let’s cool down with some secret snow and a very compelling ice man.
Two shorts for you this week: one old and one new by very different writers—Conrad Aiken who brings you into the inner world of the mind, and Haruki Murakami who brings you outside the world of reality. Both stories explore life as it freezes and isolates. Both stories disregard realism, but not reality.
Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken (1934)
Young Paul Haselman, twelve years old, is daydreaming about snow. He becomes obsessed with the falling of snow, the silence of it, and its mysterious secret world. He thinks a lot about the Arctic. When his bedroom begins to fill up with snow, the mystery goes deep, challenging reality and imaginary worlds. This story is filled with symbolism and operates on several levels of psychological complexities, imagination, and madness. Have you ever walked in the snow with muffled steps? That eerie sound of being alone in a deep white world? Here is a taste of Aiken’s unforgettable prose:
The snow was laughing: it spoke from all sides at once: it pressed closer to him as he ran and jumped exulting into his bed.
“Listen to us!” it said. “Listen! We have come to tell you the story we told you about. You remember? Lie down. Shut your eyes, now—you will no longer see much —in this white darkness who could see, or want to see? We will take the place of everything . . . Listen—”
Listen, the author says. Can you hear snow falling? Is it soothing or threatening?
Read Silent Snow, Secret Snow at VQRonline.org.
You can watch the film (Rod Serling’s Night Gallery). This version is on the Twilight Zone Network, produced by Gene Kearney.
Conrad Aiken (1869-1973) was a poet and novelist, not known for horror literature, but this story certainly fits as one of the most mysterious tales and has been widely anthologized in many horror and fantasy books.
The Ice Man by Haruki Murakami (1991)
In this short story a young woman falls in love with an ice man. When stories have a magical power like this one, you won’t forget it.
“I first met the Ice Man at this ski resort hotel. I guess that’s the kind of place one ought to meet an Ice Man.” …
“Don’t you ski? I asked the Ice Man, trying to sound as casual as possible. He slowly raised his head. He had an expression on his face like he could a hear the sound of wind blowing from incredibly far away. He looked at my face with eyes like that.”
It would a crime to reveal any more about this amazing story. Surrealist fiction can sweep you away into a delicious world. I’ve featured it here today because while this is not horror, it is about the present, the past, and the future in a fantastical and highly mysterious way. The complexity of loneliness, and becoming ‘frozen’ are themes that this author Murakami handles with such beauty, I found myself in awe. There is no missing the fear growing inside the complexities.
You can read The Ice Man here at Tab.spyang.com
Want more of Murakami? His collection of short fiction is in Blind Willow, Sleeping Willow on Amazon.com
The Ice Man was published by The New Yorker in 1991. Murakami is an award-winning contemporary Japanese author, his works translated into fifty languages. In an interview at The Paris Review (The Art of Fiction) he spoke about his writing:
“The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake. If it’s a real dream, you cannot control it…. In my books and stories, women are mediums, in a sense; the function of the medium is to make something happen through herself.”
His latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is newly released by Knopf.
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