Remembering “Le Horla”

The strange event with my notebook reminded me of a famous horror story I had read a long time ago: Guy de Maupassant, the great French writer of the late 19th century, was not only famous for novels like “Bel Ami” but also for his short stories. Among them is one piece of a horror story I dare to say is one of the most unsettling horror stories I ever read: “´Le Horla”. The story is told as a diary in reportage-style and chronicles the paranoia of a man who is stalked by an invisible supernatural being, which makes him ill, tries to get control of his thoughts and drinks his water. One of the most terrifying things is that we never see the Horla: ” Le Horla est un être invisible à l’oeil nu, ce qui lui confère sa supériorité”. There is a surprising resolution at the end: Most of its length the story leads us in the direction of psychological horror. We are witnessing a progress of madness. However in the end Le Horla becomes a story of cosmic horror. The Horla is only one member of a race of supernatural beings, maybe an alien race, which first appeared in Brazil. The narrator tells us of his dark foreboding feelings: “After man the Horla”.

I can assure everyone that there is no similar thing like Le Horla responsible for the strange incident with the notebook. No further things happened here, and I am sure nobody has made any entries in my books except myself.  I know what you think now: “if he only would keep his things in order and would have organized his notes a little better the whole thing wouldn’t happened at all”.

When I said I am maybe not alone in this I didn’t mean that supernatural beings keep an influence on my project in a literal sense. I am convinced the otherworld works most of the time in more subtle ways. I suggest reflecting more upon the very nature of creativity. We do not really know where ideas originally come from. Even if we develop a story inspired by a newspaper article it might be an interesting question why that particular article got our attention in the first place.

A story can begin with a certain symbol or image which appeared in the imagination first. Some images are so strong you feel a need to do something about it.  “Le Horla” was often interpreted as a story about Maupassant’s own progressing madness. I think this is a very simple and short-handed interpretation. Going back to the third act of his short story it is worth to ask why Maupassant had chosen that strange turning point, which is more suitable for a writer like the honorable H.P. Lovecraft. Maybe we should read the Horla not as a metaphor for beginning psychosis but as a metaphor for some kind of external influence, an influence which seems not to come from the subconscious but from somewhere else.

Maupassant’s description of Le Horla sounds more like something, which came from another dimension, another scheme of evolution, superior to mankind, like Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones: “One might almost say that the air, the invisible air, is full of unknowable Forces, whose mysterious presence we have to endure”.

If we take this idea not too literal, we will discover that this is a very common concept.

Even in psychology, for example C.G. Jung’s idea of the archetypes, which he said, have always a hidden influence on us, have a troubling quality. It is interesting that Jung’s writings are ambiguous about the true nature of archetypes.

Simplified, Jung plays with the idea that there are hidden patterns in reality, which work more like a tendency of certain events to happen.

There is also an interesting line in Le Horla: “Everything that surrounds us, everything that we see without looking at it, everything that we touch without knowing it, everything that we handle without feeling it, everything that we meet without clearly distinguishing it, has a rapid, surprising, and inexplicable effect upon us and upon our organs, and through them on our ideas and on our being itself”

Such a concept might easily lead to a feeling of being followed, maybe not in an extreme sense like the poor protagonist in Le Horla.

Vice versa, if we could open our eyes and train our senses to see certain events in a different light, we might lift the veil in The Forest Dark a little bit. What we need to learn is to read the hidden patterns in the right way.

There might be things, particularly in the Northern Woods, which doesn’t appear as living beings in the first place, but manifest themselves in more unpredictable ways. We know of very disturbing encounters in the woods, which are too strange to be told accordingly.

Le Horla contains a very good description of what we should be looking for:

 “Do you believe it?” I asked the monk. “I scarcely know,” he replied; and I continued: “If there are other beings besides ourselves on this earth, how comes it that we have not known it for so long a time, or why have you not seen them? How is it that I have not seen them?”

He replied: “Do we see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists? Look here; there is the wind, which is the strongest force in nature. It knocks down men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships on to the breakers; it kills, it whistles, it sighs, it roars. But have you ever seen it, and can you see it? Yet it exists for all that.”


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