This week on Weirdfictionreview.com, we’re revisiting our coverage of Alfred Kubin, and his masterpiece The Other Side (1908), about a strange city and the dream-like events that occur there.
I talked more about my enthusiasm for this novel on NPR’s To The Best of Our Knowledge this past weekend. The Dedalus edition of The Other Side was reprinted late last year.
There are several interesting facts about the book and the writer.
- The Other Side has a cult status partly because it’s long been a favorite of a variety of writers and artists. It would be hard to believe, for example, that Mervyn Peake had not read Kubin prior to writing his Gormenghast novels. I would be willing to bet the great Angela Carter had also read Kubin, along with Leonora Carrington, before writing her novel The War of Dreams, also titled The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman.
- Kubin had been commissioned to illustrate a book of Edgar Allen Poe novellas by a Munich publisher in 1907.
- Not long after publication of The Other Side, Franz Kafka read and enjoyed it, and then later used elements from it in the creation of his own The Castle. (Kubin might have been aware of Kafka’s early work, as well.)
- Kubin also created illustrations for the influential early German SF novel Lesabendio by Paul Scheerbart, among others.
Kubin was a wonderful example of a writer and artist who had very fine control of technique, but also allowed his subconscious to lead his creative expression. The result is unique in fiction—and in art.