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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Samalio Pardulus

Otto Julius Bierbaum

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To purchase Samalio Pardulus

Title: Samalio Pardulus
Author: Otto Julius Bierbaum
Genre: Novella
Written: 1908 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 70 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Samalio Pardulus - US
Samalio Pardulus - UK
Samalio Pardulus - Canada
Samalio Pardulus - Deutschland
Samalio Pardulus - España
directly from: Wakefield Press
  • German title: Samalio Pardulus
  • Translated and with an Introduction by W. C. Bamberger
  • Illustrations by Alfred Kubin

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Our Assessment:

B : nice little dark tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Samalio Pardulus of the title is a monstrous figure, a larger than life "wild ugly man" from an old and powerful family who:

did no take part in the life of his day, was deaf to every feeling those people called happiness or unhappiness. He cared nothing for pleasure itself.
     He knew only one desire: to be alone and to create around himself a new world of forms of his imagination, which made a powerful bid to present itself in images.
       His father's personal secretary, an exiled Florentine named Messer Giacomo, teaches him to paint, but Samalio Pardulus isn't satisfied with his teacher's tame brushwork and has much grander visions and ambitions:
His desire was to bring to light his innermost visions, render the wavering steady, the scattered insubstantial.
       Samalio Pardulus is related based on eyewitness Messer Giacomo's account in his: "diario (which, incidentally, was also boring because it was so monotonous)" -- much of it verbatim, but the editorial voice (neutral, in contrast to Messer Giacomo's) and hand nevertheless also prominent.
       Samalio Pardulus' art is dark and grotesque -- "full of the reviling of life, which in this art does not seem to be of God, rather of the devil" -- and he justifies it by claiming: "we are allowed to do what He is allowed to do: everything". And he certainly doesn't seem to accept any limits, pushing boundaries where he can.
       There is also true, sublime beauty in Samalio Pardulus' life -- but it seems out of reach: he has a sister, Bianca Maria: "who is as beautiful as he is ugly" -- and he apparently: "burns with an unseemly love" for her. She seems to emphatically not reciprocate these feelings, and is engaged to marry -- but then things go wrong. Very wrong. Soon, "eerie things were happening nightly at the castle in the forest".
       Bianca Maria and Samalio Pardulus' father, the Count, is confronted with the worst when he is called back home from a visit to Rome. Accompanied by a quivering Messer Giacomo, he is driven to extremes -- stamping out a horror, while also forced to recognize that he had failed to see what his son was capable of, and that: "art, practiced with this proud, heroic devotion, belongs among the greatest human things, among those that carry us over all depths and fog".
       If Samalio Pardulus achieved the highest of art, it is nevertheless anything but a happy ending: the Count has gazed into the abyss (and will continue to do so until his death), and his children have been crushed within it; the Countess is off to a monastery -- and, the one small blessing, dilettante Messer Giacomo vows never to pick up a brush again.
       A nicely overheated gothic grotesque, Samalio Pardulus is a dark tale of art, passion, and god. The lovely little Wakefield Press edition -- truly pocket-sized -- includes the Alfred Kubin illustrations made for the 1911 edition of the original, the black charcoal-dominated pictures a beautiful complement to the story, truly illustrating it, the shadowy technique showing and suggesting just enough, the final tableau of brother and sister a convincing portrait of that scene.
       A lovely-horrible little volume.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 April 2019

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Samalio Pardulus: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German author Otto Julius Bierbaum lived 1865 to 1910.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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