Friday, February 19, 2010
The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake take place in the remote kingdom of Gormenghast and focus on the intrigues that unfold within the huge, isolated Castle Gormenghast and its environs. The three novels--Titus Groan (1949), Gormenghast (1950), and Titus Alone (1959)--follow the main character, Titus Groan, from birth to manhood and chronicle his role as the reluctant ruler of Gormenghast. Titus's closest relative is his sister, Fuchsia, who has an erratic nature and is given to melancholy since the death of their father. In the second novel, Fuchsia learns that the man she loves--the villainous Steerpike--is a murderer, and briefly contemplates suicide. Standing on a window ledge above rising flood waters, she is startled by a knock on the door, loses her footing, and falls, striking her head on the way down. Unconscious, she drowns in the water below. This scene is depicted in the song The Drowning Man, from The Cure's 1981 album Faith: Starting at the violent sound/She tries to turn/But final/Noiseless/Slips and strikes her soft dark head/The water bows/Receives her/And drowns her at its ease. The lyrics even mention her by name: Oh Fuchsia!/You leave me/Breathing like the drowning man. The Gormenghast Novels are usually referred to as a trilogy because only three were published (the third book, Titus Alone, was unfinished at the time of Peake's death and was completed by another hand). However, Peake wrote a novella called Boy in Darkness (1956) that relates a short episode involving Titus as a young boy. He also planned at least two more volumes in the main series, tentatively titled Titus Awakes and Gormenghast Revisited. Peake's heirs recently discovered a draft of Titus Awakes written by the author's widow during the 1970s, and are planning to have it published in 2011.