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An undisputed classic of epic fantasy, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels represent one of the most brilliantly sustained flights of Gothic imagination.
As the novel opens, Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born. He stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle. Inside, all events are predetermined by a complex ritual whose origins are lost in history and the castle is peopled by dark characters in half-lit corridors. Dreamlike and macabre, Peake's extraordinary novel is one of the most astonishing and fantastic works in modern English fiction.
an agility more likely to be found in jungles than in kitchens. A prodigious bellow outvoicing all cacophony caused him to turn his head away from the dwarf. Away to his left in the shade of a supporting pillar he could make out the vague unmistakable shape of what had really been at the back of his brain like a tumour, ever since he had entered the Great Kitchen. SWELTER The chef of Gormenghast, balancing his body with difficulty upon a cask of wine, was addressing a group of apprentices
knowledge of me?’ And as he grinned his black eyes widened and in either eye there burned a star, and as the stars grew greater his fingers curled. ‘I live in the Tower of Flints,’ he cried. ‘I am the death-owl.’ A ROOF OF REEDS To her left, as she moved slowly along the broken and overgrown track Keda was conscious the while of that blasphemous finger of rock which had dominated the western skyline for seven weary days. It had been like a presence, something which, however the sunlight or
– the sight of a red beetle – anything might suddenly awake the horror; and he would dig his nails into the palms of his hands as the recollection of the murder and of the subsequent death of his master discoloured his brain. There were few days in which he did not climb the foothills of the Mountain, or pick his way to the edge of the Twisted Woods, in order to see the long broken line of Gormenghast’s backbone. Hours of solitude in the wood were apt to detach him from the reality of any other
As he holds himself to the ocean’s faery floor, one hand clasped to a bedded whale’s rib, he is complete and infinite. Pulse, power and universe sway in his body. He is in love. The love of the painter standing alone and staring, staring at the great coloured surface he is making. Standing with him in the room the rearing canvas stares back with tentative shapes halted in their growth, moving in a new rhythm from floor to ceiling. The twisted tubes, the fresh paint squeezed and smeared across
over. Then as she turned and sat at the window a calm came upon her as from her very centre, the milk of her body and the riches of her frustrated love welled up and succoured the infant creature in her keeping. ‘FIRST BLOOD’ Titus, under the care of Nannie Slagg and Keda, developed hourly in the western wing. His weird little head had changed shape, from day to day as the heads of infants do, and at last settled to its own proportion. It was both long and of a bulk that promised to