The Inhuman Ladder – Karim Ghahwagi



My previous reviews of this author: & &

and of this publisher:

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below….

19 thoughts on “The Inhuman Ladder – Karim Ghahwagi

  1. I read the first work in April 2019, as follows in successive real-time sections—-



    “, but the great white Devil has taken my legs down to the dark belly of the sea, and the Lord has taken my eyes up to the bright eternal light of the heavens, leaving me in the darkness…”

    Captivated by the history, captivated by the spirit of place, the environs of an island near Malta, soon after the Crusades had finished, I follow a physician, himself recovering from the wars and a cave wherein he endured visions, is sent by the Abbot from his hibernation to help the spiritual crises of a twelve year old girl and her fisherfolk family. Crises said to be physical, not spiritual. So much more to avoid mentioning here, such as the most startling voluntary withdrawal of narrative omniscience I have ever encountered in literature, that has made me lie to you above. For fear of discovering the circumstances of what I have withheld, please do not proceed with reading my review when I come to start writing it again below. So far, I have only read up to page 28. Malta or Maltin.

    “A strange symbol, four feet in diameter, had been drawn onto its surface. It consisted of three intersected triangles encircled unevenly by a thread of Roman numerals. Unrecognizable to the physician, and crude in its rudimentary design, the symbol nonetheless appeared fervent with intent.”

    We are encouraged, I sense, to compare the erstwhile cave and what it contained (the memory of which dogs the physician) with the the mouth of the girl whom the physician eventually finds at the edge of a cliff, finding her here after MethODD rituals, the Damian Murphy-like Methoddical of a path, towards an occult goal, I infer, and not without the imprints of blood as part of the path, a path scried from amid richly honed prose styles to honey or lubricate the otherwise natural dryness of words, whatever the words, and amid the eponymous crimson where through slots such stained sunshine can penetrate, there are some visions here that have stunned the reader.

    “…the image was rekindled, ever fervent, ever intent upon realigning the remnants of its own afterimage upon the very Azimuthian co-ordinates of its conjuring.”

    “Gods or ghosts, the existence of one did not presuppose the existence of the other.”

    …nor preclude!?
    We remain imbued with the physician’s pathway, remaining close-chested, as I am, about this person’s nature and this person’s visions in the Jerusalem cave, amid thoughts of St Paul as once Saul of Tarsus… Not only visions, but the horn as reliquary brought back on pilgrimage from there with subsequent instinctively applied importance to “klitorá” et al. And thoughts, too, as to the hospitality of the hospitaller knights, the hospitum, and what its Abbot saw in the miraculous, momentarily cacophonous, effect (just epilepsy as the ostensible physician maintains?) of the twelve year old girl fetched by that physician to here within a circle of such clergy. Whereby caves and mouths and other bodily crevices and those earlier crimsoned slots of channelled sunshine potentially approximate each other in synchrony – alongside other methods in such madness? My own madness, notwithstanding. Mad enough to relish this material, as you, perforce, by gestalt, shall be mad enough to do so, too, I say.

    “Perceived linearity, in the wake of the vision, had been, on reflection in hindsight, a synchronous manifestation, larger and vaster than the sum of its parts.”

    An “inner circle” formed to nurture the girl-child’s “divine work”, her divine laments of holy ‘revelry’ (sic), the Abbot on his own threshold of architectural spirituality of apostolic exegesis, but gradually our physician with guilty moments of trans-torment of self or responsibility for the girl is gradually withdrawn from mentoring her, but nevertheless we are tutored in local temples and geographic shifts of Malta between Africa and Europe, the past Ottoman cruelties to the hospitallers and we sense we are learning more by cumulative Gestalt than we can ever give credit for. Nosebleeds, sundial manufacture and others’ retellings or extrapolations of the girl’s inducement of automatic writings and occult wisdom, I infer. Yet there is something even deeper, perhaps, as this morning I had cause here to dabble in variations on Chaud-Mellé, and am now drawn into St Paul’s shipwreck and the ‘Melite’, and other coordinates, ‘Mellieha’ and Melite “from the noun ‘meli’ meaning ‘honey’” (and I also somehow mentioned honey earlier above in my review of the Ghahwagi.)

    “, where the child had scratched a sundial into the earth. It was as if she steered by faulty coordinates displaced and wanting of recalibration and spiritual adjustment.”

    69B4DBF9-B29B-4CAD-BB26-B9D5B6A6D09D“As the silhouette drew closer, she could make out that the figure was dressed in the black flowing garments of a għonnella. Visage darkened underneath a hood, it must have been carrying a child in its arms, for she could hear the sound of it crying.”

    A garment that to my ears or eyes is akin to a bodily part such as klitorá or ‘vulvic gullet’? At least not yet, but not long before another babe cries from “betwixt the in-between” of such, I guess. (Meghan also has personal connections as her great-great-grandmother Mary was born in Malta in 1862.) There is much that resides under this often florid alter-altar of prose, words to scry so as to tell spilled intestines from serpents. Or to tell crimson sunlight from blood. Maltese Miracle from fell foulness. Sacrificial albino lamb from innocent girl whose neck or gullet is thus used. Man from woman, or vice versa.
    My own retellings or extrapolation of this thoughtful, sometimes visceral or vital, work — to add to other scribes alike thus working on the triangulations of its inspirations and other coordinates. A holy revelry. Another child of the crimson sun now due.



    An hour ago re Meghan, Duchess of SusSex:

  2. 1821

    “Its consonants crackled like burning kindle, its vowels were wispy and strange.”

    This is the richest text that has literally captured the nature of candles as manufactured things and their flames and their plumes of smoke when snuffed. You may quibble at the word ‘literally’ above, but I stand by it. It also captures religious, spiritual and fairy-story telling aspects with the events relating to Lucia and Izabel. And the resultant Guilds of Light and Shadow, as a synergy or battle between? It is both, with sharp oscillations of mood as well as the wonderful concept of ‘ditherings’, as expressed by an almost overbearing experience reading this work’s’ exponential hedonism of semantics / syntax / phonetics. The ‘taxing’ and training of wax and wicks as ‘Eternal Story’.

  3. 1932
    I reviewed this next story here:, in that context, as follows:



    “It tinted the artist studio with a strange quality that made it almost feel like they were submerged at the bottom of the sea.”

    We see this borderline edgy, intriguing, optically illusory novelette through a film not darkly but with pareidolia and colours as if from a Poe Masque, a leasehold or freehold narration of a protagonist (through the filter of his niece, it turns out?) with a handful of typos like a fragment of a film loop been in its canister too long. It has connections with the previous story in that we are told via the voice of this protagonist’s voice of a concomitance of currents and geology creating here a vortex or whirlpool in the Skagerrak, the inspiring genius loci of that area in 1930s pre Scandinavian Noir but steeped here with a Satanic Noir of Marie Corelli’s Sorrows and the then Scandinavian cinema scene (a text footnoted and seemingly academic) mixed with a Midsummer Eve ritual on the beach with perhaps a descendant of the miscegenate female narrator of the Johnstone story…. A complex series of filmic developments (acetate?) in a darkroom of the mind, a murder mystery, too, with the investigating policeman steeped in cinematic lore, too, and our protagonist himself mourning his own wife to the sea’s drowning, while the dead man’s wife is accused of her husband’s murder. This is a rich text with insidiously shifting facets, so utterly rich, it is also seemingly steeped upon the edge of madness at the niecely nexus of the protagonist, I feel, and it also has reference to one of my favourite Scandinavian composers, Hugo Alfvén. Sashaying seaweed. Rumours. A “totality of the paintings”, a gestalt of a single room’s art, an alchemy and aesthetics that I happened to read about while Britten’s Sea Interludes were on the radio. Everything was in place to make this jigsaw fit, even with the photo of the book I took earlier this morning. And a wild, sea-subsuming dream as its climax beyond any ligan, except perhaps the ligan of footnotes gives a sense of being kept afloat from below. “What the Devil has happened!?” – Nexsø as source protagonist himself asked. I think I may now know more than those involved. Leasehold protagonism of a Journal or the subsequent Niecehold storifying or Ghahwagi’s freehold authorship, whichever you choose this text to be. Probably a blend of all three? Perhaps, the reader alone has the potential, if not the ability, to be omniscient about it. Even the copy of the Corelli concerned was hand-annotated. And I think any long-term susceptibility to the sea can cause madness, not just specifically this story’s brilliantly conjured genius loci — “A kind of ‘artist’s sickness’, or ‘painterly madness’, has been documented in numerous sources and known to effect painters obsessed with Skagen’s particular alchemy of sea water and sunlight.”

    nullimmortalis June 10, 2018 at 8:24 am Edit
    Afterthought: that “painterly madness” is evoked very disturbingly by the nature of paintbrush and eye…

  4. An Invitation To A Conjuring

    Pages 137-146

    “In the wilting garden of brief joys and eternal sorrows of my life, the black petals of emotion had started to fall from that tree of experience, and rain down as from across the bone chimneys of Europe.”

    A novella seemingly to be packed with much wordery like that and the many things it describes, while Marvicking at it with renewed wonder, we sense Austria of Freud’s day, and Mesmer, and surrounding history, with reference to the nature of conjurings, and who or what controlled free will, this a man, once a dissatisfied psychotherapist in Vienna, now a painter, arriving at a Hotel in the Alps, chaperoning, I think, a carriage and its horses to a museum for an Equine Festival, here in the hotel himself chaperoned by three bellboys. And I can’t wait till the doors are open to the next section where the hotel manager reveals… reveals what? But thus to wait with trepidation I freely will.

    • Pages 147 – 151

      What I found, alongside the narrator, was most inspiring not only for what exhibits the room contained as captured by the text’s richly clotted description, but also for someone like me who has been, for 13 years so far, experimenting with an inferred preternatural power of discrete and otherwise unconnected authors in synchronous unison, perhaps indeed created by a sort of Jungian hypnotism based on Freud and the Aesthetics of Art, towards a gestalt as the essence of Literature, or some ‘True Meaning of Art.’ As if I was somehow destined to read this book just as its narrator as both erstwhile psychotherapist and current artistic painter was foreordained to visit the Alpine hotel and meet its Mr Hariri?

    • Pages 151-157

      “With every successive door he opened deeper into the Vordenburg, I felt as a moth being drawn to a flame.”

      Have I omitted to tell you that Vordenburg is the name of this hotel? And I feel much as Dr Viktor Auer does, regarding being a moth — another name, Auer being that of the narrator, a name just been given to me, unless I have forgotten being given it already! The more I slowly, savouringly dwell on this so called fiction of a novella, novel to me, unlike most of the other works in this book, the more attention I might draw to it. The same dilemma as Auer feels about the ‘artistic, spiritual’ painting experiments-toward-gestalt going on in Vordenburg, some of them involving, as a form of charity, local children, one boy in particular (who has painted a triptych?) to whom Auer is invited to give a test of psychotherapy, with loaded results either way that such testing might go … How much further into this novella, should I thus itemise its plot? Should I worry about spoilers? These questions and more invade me.

  5. Pingback: An Invitation to a Conjuring – a Gestaltych | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  6. Pages 157 – 164 (the end of Part I)

    Ending with plans for demonstrating what we have learnt to those otherwise attending the Equine Festival. An encapsulation of discoveries. Auer’s — ours, or just mine — following my examination, through these printed words that strangely seem to evolve even as I read them: words of the boy called Eder re-expressed by his elder, involving his reported vivid dreams, choice of chess chocolates with embalmed beetles inside, and my referred worry that he needs rescuing from this place, all part of some ritual pattern, involving at one point the word “mesmerized”, some of it reminding me of Damian patterns of ritual instinctive choices, Marvick’s, too, mine, ours, yours… a language to be learnt with persistent experience of using it and evolving it. Even the same story changes over time, with constant agonising at its changing surfaces of language expression to reveal by shifting like tectonic plates around the meaning residing within.
    Or words upon an inhuman ladder?

    “That the boy did not have the language to describe the horror of his own dream upon its re-invocation to me, only served to make it more terrifying, elliptical, and strange.”

    • Pages 164 – 176

      “Shop windows displayed wooden equine figures, distilled into crude fundaments of shape.”

      I continue Auer’s journey to the museum town nearby with the carriage, and am compelled by much of what I read, it all fitting into place with the sense of Anschluss at the time, paranoiac as to race and sexual orientation, the need to rescue Eder and the other children, meet Eva Binder who fills in much of the jigsaw I need to know, of dreams and Eder backstory and a leviathan and crucifixes, and a prose style that somehow clings to me with its paradoxically naive sophistication. And I dwelt on the dawning hindsight in particular of what I had, before today, read in this work. Only by reading this dwellable work over days, can one have sufficient distance of hindsight, I say.

    • Rest of Part II, Part III & Epilogue

      “The world had stopped making sense.”

      “Irregardless of its origins, or the agency of its will, I had been afforded but a fragment, a synecdoche of a far vaster canvas.”

      Auer’s world in particular; ours today, too. I could not resist experiencing this aberrantly powerful work to its end, as I felt myself reaching some tipping-point of the reading moment’s passion. Not many works are capable of such tipping-points, and Auer’s world is beset here with SS troops; competing forces of fascism, burning synagogues, imprisoned as Auer is, then released. The centre does not hold. Which force is opposing which? The monster beast or leviathan as gestalt with which the end of this work is infused. Even ‘enthused’! Horse’s reins become ‘reigns’, and a style of language itself whose naive sophistication now splinters even more, effectively, richly. The language is as powerful as the concepts, broken and mismatched, at times, but genuinely powerful, “an assemblage fused of instruments and animal, twisted into the fundament of a single, lingering key.” The return to Vordenburg, the attempted rescue of the children, severing the heads of the grown-ups seen to be villainous, massing beetles, horses splintered scattered and embattled beyond even our Godfather’s darkest imagination, I say. “I experienced conjurings both dangerous and strange.” — inside as well as outside this work. Dire as well as desirable, in some strange need for catharsis. And this work surely shed a necessary beacon on gestalt-seeking that will stay with me. I hope the author will forgive me quoting a lengthy passage: “It fills me with a deep dread to imagine that there might be some fundamental error in us as human beings; an error, not just a coping mechanism, which allows us to bury the most egregious things, in order for us to manage to continue. Without this error, we would be frozen still, unable to move, forever trapped in the terror of the moment.” That moment’s passion in the reading and its tipping-point; a fearless faith in fiction, now apotheosised; good and bad “remnants of those forces are within me still.”
      Kindertransported, or not.

      And another author’s take that I have quoted on and off for many many years:

      The nemo is an evolutionary force, as necessary as the ego. The ego is certainty, what I am; the nemo is potentiality, what I am not. But instead of utilizing the nemo as we would utilize any other force, we allow ourselves to be terrified by it, as primitive man was terrified by lightning. We run screaming from this mysterious shape in the middle of our town, even though the real terror is not in itself, but in our terror at it.”
      – John Fowles (from ‘The Necessity of Nemo’ in ‘The Aristos’ 1964)

      • And another:
        From the cosmic point of view, to have opinions or preferences at all is to be ill; for by harbouring them one dams up the flow of the ineluctable force which, like a river, bears us down to the ocean of everything’s unknowing. Reality is a running noose, one is brought up short with a jerk by death. It would have been wiser to co-operate with the inevitable and learn to profit by this unhappy state of things – by realising and accommodating death! But we don’t, we allow the ego to foul its own nest. Therefore we have insecurity, stress, the midnight-fruit of insomnia, with a whole culture crying itself to sleep. How to repair this state of affairs except through art, through gifts which render to us language manumitted by emotion, poetry twisted into the service of direct insight?”
        – from ‘The Avignon Quincunx’ by Lawrence Durrell (‘Constance’ 1982)

  7. I read and reviewed the next work in May 2019 in two successive sections, as follows:
    (In fact the black page heading of a year here is 2019)


    “‘Yes, perhaps the Devil is striving to break up Europe,’ the Commissioner said with more acerbic jest than he had intended in the circumstances.”

    Much intriguing and well-characterised build-up of the historical / religious background of this area of the Czech republic, Hussite, Catholic et al. As Izabel – another mixed American, here mixed with Czech – has arrived to investigate, in an X Files like fashion (?), hauntings, while also facing the resistance of the local authorities. All beautifully deployed by the text, if with a few minor typos. Including the local Napoleon Wargaming Society, and their alchemies of painterly modelling of miniatures. Mad Hatter Syndrome, notwithstanding. There are 4 types of such modellers: collectors, wargamers, terrain builders and history enthusiasts. Is it a coincidence that there have been 4 hauntings? But, there again, there is a fifth category, ‘totalitarians’, forming a gestalt of the 4 categories. One such totalitarian having died recently…

    “…strange cabinets, meekly illuminated by slivers of silvered light, which irregularities in their age-beleaguered contours, had allowed to enthuse into the corridor.”

    This continues to be a remarkable text, and something I forgot to mention earlier, is the effect of mirrors in forming this book’s need for gestalt, a need I hope I fulfil to some extent, and I begin to wonder whether the seeming few minor typos are intentional as part of this process, infused into the text, part of its lead poisoning. I certainly feel an uncanny, inexplicable power when reading this whole book, a power at the end of this story of an imperfect model, but particularly when I followed Izabel into the house where the ‘totalitarian’ miniaturist had lived, and his backstory, including his son who died in boyhood (“…he burned with the radiance of a crimson sun . . .”) As she explores the Old Dark of the attic. A labyrinth of discarded artefacts, and she sees miniatures of other parts of this book, miniatures of miniatures, and where she has been and where she is to go again after epiphany… I, as reader, had definite frissons of genuine fear.

    As a perhaps irrelevant aside, there was a composer called Dvorak who, inter alia, composed miniatures as well as the opera Rusalka, but his greatest work, for me, was his setting of the Stabat Mater.

    “She remained standing still, as the light enthusing from the direction behind her, grew slowly, steadily, more prevalent.”

  8. The next work, here headed 2026, was first reviewed by me in 2017, as follows…



    A tale of the ‘vagaries of the void’, an extremely powerful one at that, with capital letters for such things as the Ancient Mound, and a nursery ‘lighty-light’ following in its wake, and three gratuitous gangster type characters in a car, one an idiot boy, another a man called Minion, and Ed – all subject to that instable glitch naturally infecting this Core Cioran book so far, or at least an important particle of it. This story-story has a gory rictus at its hyphen. And clairvoyant viscera. Its method of stylistic power only imaginable if you read it. I am extremely impressed and inflated with a power it gives me over all those who have not yet read it. So perhaps I should have given it a gratuitously bad review to deter future readers? Too late. Real-time is an equally powerful tyrant once it is posted up and taken as read. Nighty-night, says the blind idiot god.

  9. The previously published works I believe may have been revised for this mighty overall collection and, of course, they may now be even more effective than how I thought of them originally!
    However, as a result of this being the twilight of my years, I have long had a normal rule that my real-time reviews of particular works are what they are, when they are…
    …and the next one was first read by me in June 2019, and is here headed with the year “21__”.
    My review of ‘The Liminal Void’ was in several successive sections, as follows…



    Following the intriguingly abstruse words and syntax of the introduction – that describe for me, and perhaps me alone, the process of Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing as an occult process – we enter…

    Site Tenebra

    And incredibly this is in a chance mutual-synergy with the Laura Mauro story ‘In The City of Bones’ read and reviewed here only an hour or so ago, as in the Ghahwagi we read:
    “An indistinct current of static bounced off out cavern walls and was punctuated with a low whisper, an indecipherable incantation, further ghosted underneath a repeated phraseology predisposed to a numeric pattern. […] Our mandate had been issued to us by the Regime in an official decree. We specialized in gathering forensic evidence in the wake of mass casualty events.”
    We also learn about other research into carrion activity and introduced to their träumtrawler truck. A refrigerated morgue, and more.

    “The water in our well had reddened with a high density of rust.”

    Black body-bags, black stones as a communication system, and black static radio signals, I begin to worry whether the printed words are really green and not black? A visual illusion? But no illusion about the words themselves, other than as a process of working through the nature of this ‘warren’ where three women – à la Area x? – are tasked with forensic study of the Regime’s atrocities, but for what purpose? There are some amazing descriptions here and further details that I cannot do justice to here. It is one of those books you need to read and not be told about. But I will continue to tell you about it, for my own benefit of appreciating it. As with the narrator woman here, I sense that knowing – or even just believing – that I am publicly telling something is already half the battle, already half the journey, towards a yet unknown goal concerning that ‘something’.



    “While we assumed that we had been compromised by the Regime’s omniscient surveillance, we had ushered a covert, deeper channel of communication between us. Forged by links established during mutual dreams and nightmares, …”

    A thread to open up between us, as we are moved on from the initial Installation, enabling a potential preternatural gestalt to be evoked by my long-seasoned reviewing techniques, but do not necessarily believe me, because I as reviewer of what is happening may be mistaken or telling wilful lies – or both. The words are dense and magical, that you CAN believe.

    “…sustained similar trauma.”

    As a tantalising blend of Trauma as éclat and Träumerei as dreaming, there is now an amazing description of our three protagonists currently still at their Kafkaesque Regime’s ‘Southern Reach’-synergous ‘Science Installation’ investigating bodily a body that has suddenly appeared, as if fallen from the sky.

    Cf today’s remarkable news in Uk:

    “…the prevalent and oxymoronic sense of nullity.”

    Null Immortalis, I suggest, amid our protagonists’ rituals and unseen guidance, a deeply felt poesy of bent spines, missing adam’s apples, masked women and much else. This is a book that somehow resists being reviewed, but we know in our hearts what is happening but continue to fail to impart it to others, others who not only include you but also me! Surveillance without surveillance. It’s reaching beyond X, even beyond its own pre-perceived redactions.

    III (Redacted)

    I have not yet read this chapter. Though, before it gets a chance to fully redact itself, I have noticed that it starts with a reference to the Children of the Crimson Sun. In case it is relevant, here is my recent review of the author’s book with that as a title:

    “symptoms of the vortex bends, instigated by the passage through the Taurus proventriculus,”

    From triptych to distaff diptych, the narrative force, via extremely rich words crafted into a Methoddical rite of passage, in the true sense of rite, and the true sense of passage as the passing through of the Acclimatisation Chamber of the previously entitled chapter, towards a temple, then possibly exhumed ‘graves’ and a village where the narration’s identities need to be re-established, or established for the first time. Amid fireflies, laments and a musical ‘dying fall’, I sense. Distortions and ‘vestiges of correlative instinct.’ Correlative instinct is the only way I know how to ‘Gestalt real-time review’ in face of such rich narration, even perhaps turning up in person myself hidden so far by a hood or scarf at the end of this set of pages? At least for the nonce – till I pick up this book again.

    “she gleaned the face of an old weeping man,”
    Man or woman, I truly feel I am in this text myself. Distaff or spear diptych, the text enthuses as well as infuses. Its richness and obliquity beyond measure.
    “malleable deceptive convalescent states in this pocket of null.”
    Towards temple, village or circus?
    “The crowns of doorways, buried to their keyholes, tilted strangely…”
    “a strange theatre of cosmic jest,”
    You may choose different keys to quote.


    “And what of the strange third current in the undulating tributary, which we felt move the tide of black water and red light in our mutual body?”

    7.1 last night, details still unclear. Hope all are safe. Especially this author if he is there. But we have today in this inspiring climax of this book, “ripples of a vast Red Sea”, “sound of drumming lost its rhythmic pattern, and started to beat out of true”, “ears crammed with boulders and granite”, “that crimson sun in the bowels of the mountain”,…

    And today, our news in UK is full of an unusually private royal christening, the one of our Archie, a child and his parents referred to in my earlier review of Children of the Crimson Sun, and today his Godparents are mysteriously kept secret: and here in this amazing richly oblique climax of the Liminal Void “Those very coordinates by which we were held buried in its cradle of being”, “playful gestures of masked children”, and more.

    And the temple or circus, and an inadvertent theme and variations on my own prose piece ‘The Tide of Time’ that was published in a magazine called Dark Star in 1990! Read its relative brevity here:


    And thanks for fulfilling the potential of the Träumtrawler. Beyond any ‘collapse into the rear wall of our head’. Our singular head.

    “A group of cavorting, cheering children – themselves masked and costumed in the likenesses of animals – ran up the temple steps.”

    ‘If anything, I was a bit of a dab hand at drawing together all the strands of the future into a composite picture. They say you can learn a lot of lessons from such trends to help you sort out the present.’ — from The Tide of Time 1990.


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