NIGREDO by Steve Duffy
“I turned up at the hour specified, and was shown into an agreeable and commodious set of rooms, whose principal adornments consisted of a set of engravings, Flemish to my untutored eye, on the theme of the seven Deadly Sins. Colville noticed my interest in these, and said, smiling a little, ‘So, Burnage was right: you do have an eye for the telling detail.’”
Enticed again by the affable soul’s telling details, the soul who facilitated the earlier Burnage story. And this its sequel. Oh wonder why so many stories of evil are passed through this soul’s hands and why I come back for more. This is another story where a character is warned not to do certain things, justified warnings. And the warnings are ignored! I will not issue such warnings, myself, because I know that will only encourage you further to delve into this book, despite its tricky tides that threaten to cut you off. Here is no exception, with a story of Alchemy and Avarice, one feeding off the other. Where even the word ‘Alchemist’ itself is transmuted! Telling of buried treasure under a flagstone that you might find if you dare plumb further into these words. I don’t think I have read so much about and understood more about Alchemy in any work before. A story that proves yet again that the affable soul has a good line in chase stories that approach the Zeno’s Paradox of dark shapes hugging your path. I beg for forgiveness from this affable soul for quoting so much below from this story, but as this dark treasure has so long lain fallow, away from readership, perhaps even since that great war featured here, I thought I would give you this temptation of quotations in the hope you withstand such temptation! By having your reading appetite thus assuaged? A temptation itself, you see, is stronger than any warning against it when transmuted into an even stronger warning against it! And, so, we need the name for another different Paradox!
“The alchemist’s quest: it was a foolish preoccupation, from a foolish time. Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice: this is not a wise dream, or a healthy dream, and men have gone beggars to their deathbeds over it—“
“All this play with salts and crucibles and the alkahest of Paracelsus; it is a game with them, a disguise for what is real. There is only nigredo, and albedo: the foulness and corruption of the base matter, and the final refinement of the gold. To work through these stages, one to the other, it is an exercise of the will;”
“…he ran pell-mell through copse and marram-grass, across sand-dunes and foreshore, with that ghastly figure always looming behind through the mist, neither gaining nor falling back appreciably, waving and sawing at him whenever he looked back.”
“Remember what I have said to you, that impurity may outlast purity, and that what remains of an evil deed must in itself be evil.”
The full context of this review here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/06/30/the-night-comes-steve-duffy/
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