Monday, 28 January 2019

The Green Round

The Green Round by Arthur Machen
Arthur Machen
Tartarus Press

Why is studious, bookish, quiet Lawrence Hillyer suddenly reviled and shunned by his fellow holiday-makers at a genteel Pembrokeshire coastal resort? Why is staunch and respectable Mrs Jolly, a landlady of many years seniority, all at once the source of police interest and knowing looks from her neighbours? What weird projectile smashed suburban Mr Horncastle's domed glasshouse from such an improbable distance? What is the inner secret of the Reverend Thomas Hampole's modest little book recounting his rambles in lesser-known London? What draws an eminent nerve specialist to study all this with such deep interest?
Arthur Machen includes within the pages of The Green Round all of the many interests and preoccupations of his writing career. His hero, Hillyer, takes a holiday in West Wales and visits the “Green Round”, a mysterious natural hollow. He soon finds that he has acquired an unwanted shadow, and the novel becomes a study in disclocated parallel realities. With a perceptive new introduction by Machen's most recent biographer, Mark Valentine.

In his introduction to this edition of one of Machen's later works - and one written specifically for hire - Mark Valentine points out that to many people - Machen included - this is one of the authors least loved and most poorly regarded works.  Ever the contrarian, I loved it.

'The 'green round' is a small clearing amidst the dunes outside a small West Wales costal town.  In this dell - we assume - a malicious entity attaches itself to a quiet, bookish young man vacationing there for his health.  A few people are aware of this entity - mostly other guests at the resort and at least one other - before he himself becomes aware of it.

The narrative is vague and it is never clear as to exactly what is happening.  Is there really a mischievous and malicious creature from one of those sidereal worlds of Machen's imagination plaguing the hapless Lawrence Hillyer and those around him or are the events merely happenstance, coincidents or fictions.  Machen takes this ambiguity and uses it as a platform for ruminations on the nature of the supernatural and the normal and the potential costs and crises that an intersection of the two would entail.

The book is littered with blind alleys and nothing is concluded in any traditional sense and for me that was a delightful and unexpected surprise, although, to my reading that ambiguity of events is also present in Machen's most celebrated work 'The Hill of Dreams'.

At the close we are left none the wiser to any of the events  - hallucinations, mischief, delusion, intrusion, fiction or fact - and that made for a very interesting place to stop.

This edition is still avaliable as an eBook directly from the publisher at the link above.

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