Sunday, June 10, 2012

Georg Heym, “The Dissection,” 1913

Georg Heym

"The dead man lay alone and naked on a white cloth in a wide room, surrounded by depressing white walls, in the cruel sobriety of a dissection room that seemed to shiver with the screams of endless torture."
             Georg Heym, "The Dissection"

Not only is death terrifying, it's also a magnificently weird state to be in. Heym's story is, to use one of his own words, naked; what is on the surface a clinical observation about a dead body turns out, on closer inspection, to be much more.

The topic of "The Dissection" is ostensibly death, yet there is a strange consciousness present throughout the telling of the tale. Is it the dead man, and if so, what does this state of being tell us about the nature of death? The story's consciousness (and I mean this both figuratively and literally, because that consciousness seems to reside both in the words and the narrative at the same time) veers from a perspective of fear to one of bliss, even while... well, I don't want to give too much away. Suffice to say that, as the introduction to the story states, Thomas Ligotti calls "The Dissection" one of his favourite tales ever. Weird factor 3/5.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

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