Horror Short Story Review: "The Nameless City" by H. P. Lovecraft
The narrator of this story finds the nameless city in a parched and terrible valley in the moon “protruding uncannily above the sands as parts of a corpse may protrude from an ill-made grave.” It lies “remote in the desert of “Araby,” in a place avoided and feared by the local Arabs, though they probably don’t know why.
It was of this city Abdul Alhazred the mad poet dreamed before he sang his unexplainable couplet:
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
Abdul Alhazred, one later finds out (not in this story) is the author of the fictional Necromicon.
When the narrator explores the nameless city, he notices little sand storms around it, particularly at dawn and sunset. He is reminded of the Doom that Came to Sarnath. But curiosity overcomes fear. He comes across a temple, but finds the fixtures puzzlingly low. He cannot stand up in the building; he can barely kneel. What sort of men worshipped here? The sand storms have effaced any decorations, and painting.
He finds a stairway—more of a series of footholds—and once more curiosity overcomes fear. Down and down he goes and what he finds there…
This is one of the longer stories. The horror increases, the mood of finding the ancient and forbidden looms large until the final shock and horror at the end. Yet the narrator, ever curious, forges on. On the one hand, it seems to me that this was accomplished too quickly, that the answers arrived at are almost forgone conclusions. The reader is told at the beginning that the narrator’s face “bears such hideous lines of fear” as his. At the same time, I, liked the narrator, wanted to see what was down those stairs…
Title: “The Nameless City” written in 1921. First published in The Wolverine Nov. 1921. This is often considered the first of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu cycle of stories
Author: H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
Last Review: Greek Poetry: A. E. Housman and Aristophanes
Last Lovecraft Review: “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family”
© 2015 Denise Longrie
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