Arthur Machen in the underworld
Fans and admirers of Arthur Machen and his literary universe of mystical terror take note: one week ago BBC Radio 4 broadcast a delicious half-hour exploration of Machen’s life, work, and literary legacy, presented in the form of a tour of various sites in Wales that are relevant to his biography and major themes. It’s an amazingly atmospheric and stylish bit of documentary audio journalism, aided especially by evocatively creepy music and a number of effective dramatic readings from several of Machen’s tales, not to mention the typically excellent BBC production values. It’s written and narrated by Machen’s fellow author and Welshman, Horatio Clare.
Description: Arthur Machen’s stories twitched the veil between our world and a disturbing underworld. On his 150th anniversary, Horatio Clare explores the writer’s real and imagined landscapes.
Excerpt: “Arthur Machen’s themes are visions of madness, sex, and death. Every scribbler of horror and thrilling tales has attempted them, but Machen draws them from beyond a veil between our own world and an underworld populated by gods, demons, and malevolent fairies. His visions might well make your heart beat faster even now, should you find yourself in the landscape which gave Machen his first glimpses behind that veil: in the riddle of wooded hills and valleys running down to the sea between the rivers Usk and Wye in the southeast corner of Wales.
“What intrigues me, Mr. Machen, is the nature of your encounters in those secretive hills of your Welsh childhood. What happened to you? What so struck you that you should have spent your writing life returning here in your stories, peeling off the turf and fossil layers of history and folklore? What dark and turbulent underworld did you glimpse?”
Thank you to Teeming Brain columnist Stuart Young for alerting me to this.
For more on Machen, see the Teeming Brain podcast “Cosmic Horror vs. Sacred Terror.”