Monday, June 11, 2012

Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,” 1915

"When the student of medicine, Richard Bracquemont, decided to move into room #7 of the small Hotel Stevens, Rue Alfred Stevens (Paris 6), three persons had already hanged themselves from the cross-bar of the window in that room on three successive Fridays."
                                          Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,”  

This is an extremely dense story. There is lot going on here, and the continual distraction by several weird elements contributes to the uncertainty of what is actually going on.

I've always had a fondness for text written as journal entries, and "The Spider" mixes this format with a more traditional approach to narrative. This is one of the distractions I mentioned earlier, because it is almost unavoidable that the reader does not at some point consider the idea that Bracquemont is simply using his journal as a means of tethering himself to reality while he is in fact slowly losing his mind.

The woman across the way from Bracquemont, in an apartment on the other side of the street, is equally dubious. With her movements that mimic that of a spider she entrances Bracquemont, leading him into a game of eerie mimicry where the reader cannot be sure whether she is, like Bracquemont, a hapless player in a bigger, more sinister chain of events that are in actual fact directly linked to Room No. 7.

Which all brings us to the window and the seemingly supernatural power it holds over the inhabitants of Room No. 7. The notion of "seeing into the other side" comes into full play; is what the occupants seeing the truth as a matter of reality, and is that what drives them to all commit the same act? Or does the window make them see something out of the ordinary?

Weird Factor: 4/5. Because people are people and spiders should stay spiders.

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

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