11 Sept. 2021
NIEMANDSWASSER by Robert Aickman
“Every ripple is poetry and every zephyr a tender release.”
A ‘semi-ruinous lakeside congeries’ of a story, one that has come up fresh, even ice-cold, with weird-classic resonances that I cannot remember from first reading it many years ago. With mountains nebulously hovering in the backdrop of this congeries of the countries that are the lakes’ boundaries, one particular lake with a ‘No Man’s Water’ area where Venn territorial overlaps cannot reach. But we cannot forget the basic story of Elmo, the past’s high ranking German man, a sort of ‘Lady of Shallot’, one who, as a Ravissante-like young man, “went repeatedly through the soft dresses and perfumed underclothes”, and who also reaches a typically Aickman-like Zeno’s Paradox of a despairing ‘Shall-Not’ Null-Immortalis as I call such states (and Elmo’s eventual yearned-for death is indeed ‘presumed’). A story that also contains Elmo’s visions of a Holy Virgin figure (beautiful, white and naked) hovering over lakes and his friendship with another man called Viktor “who sometimes dressed as a girl” and Elmo’s once obsession with a woman called Elvira, with ‘The Model’ then apotheosised perhaps as his shallop eventually reaches that crucial non-overlap point in the lake whereat Viktor once had his fingers bitten off by whatever lurked beneath its surface. The important reference, too, to the literal “Polar” regions (or ’Himalayan’) of the world brought here to historic Europe by geographical prestidigitation, as it were, being a link to describe this story’s essential bi-polar mental state. A landmark conceit by Aickman.
A bi-polar man with a “pretty pistol” if never to use it on himself. A perpetual yearned-for death that he somehow already possessed…
By chance, I finished yesterday (HERE) my marathon review of Mark Samuels’ under-considered horror novel, and the first example quote from this Aickman work below is, for me, a serendipitously striking accompaniment to that long reading experience… a few quotes from this crucial Aickman story to be read alongside my thoughts on it…
“Elmo found, as have many, that the death of the heart corrupted the pen into writing a farrago of horrors and insanities, not necessarily the less true for their seeming extravagance, but inaccessible for the most part to the prudent.”
“duration was always impossible” — “it was like trying to act decisively in limbo.” — “When the heart is dead, all is dead, though the victim may not fully realize it for a long time.” — “….heavier and heavier to pull with every minute that passed or was it with every hour? The darkness was so thick that it impeded his movements like frozen black treacle.”
“What other thought mattered than that nothing mattered.”
I will not quote, however, the Spalt, if not now spoilt by unwisely spilling it here, passage about women in general!
But the hovering ‘Holy Virgin’ lady at the end becomes vicious with pointed teeth in revenge!
But, equally, please tellingly compare and contrast this finale with one of the closing scenes (Chapter 59) in another work’s raft or shallop: Cressida arguably with a projected version of the author himself here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/go-back-at-once-robert-aickman/#comment-20392
My other reviews of Robert Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/