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IHASPFTW - Epilogue by the Translator
IHASPFTW - Epilogue by the Translator
Introduction to the Greek Translation by Katerina Golemi
Published by ophelia
03-01-2005
IHASPFTW - Epilogue by the Translator

"Do you dream of an inorganic black nothingness-the purity of an absolute void? Do you dream of an all-consuming darkness?"
"Well, an all-consuming darkness kind of suggests that there's something going on in the universe. That's not what I would wish. I don't want a universe in which even nothing could be going on"

"Does Thomas Ligotti have a "better half", a partner in crime, a mate? If so, how would you characthe relationship?"
"No, I just have the one half and that's plenty for me to deal with."

"What do you look for in a friend?"
"I guess the quality I most prize in other people is their willingness to be content with relating to me on an extremely superficial basis consisting largely of laughs and an exchange of opinions on movies and TV shows. Or to wax uncharacteristically metaphysical about it, I try to keep most people at arm's length because I don't want to generate any unnecessary future karma for myself by getting seriously involved with them."

[Excerpts from T.L. interviews]

Thomas Ligotti, one of the most brilliant figures of modern American letters, who has won several literature distinctions including the Bram Stoker Award and British Fantasy Award, was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1953 [1]. Although he holds the scepters of horror fiction "Master", slowly building his reputation over the last 20 years2, he continues to be pretty unknown among the mainstream, probably because he is very obscure and complex for the typical readers of this literature genre. In addition, it's very hard to classify Thomas Ligotti, since his work cannot be compared with anything else written so far: his work deals with ontological obsessions, sometimes with plainly philosophical, and at other times with theosophical? In the end, all his stories evoke a unique and "primitive" feeling of metaphysical horror. The fact that Ligotti is not (nor is he trying to be) mainstream popular makes him very appealing, and his loyal, fanatic audience (which is willing to pay several hundreds of dollars for rare, out-of-print editions at online marketplaces) feels like belonging to a mystical society.

His supernatural, unconventional and grotesque stories are emanating from a big tradition that started in America in the beginning of the 19th century, with representatives such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne -also several lesser names-and of course culminating in the genius of H.P. Lovecraft. Those writers sprouted from the schism that occurred in American tradition, when popular superstitions of the metaphysical kind (let's not forget that the Bible and Milton's Paradise Lost were the biggest best sellers in that country up until recently) clashed with modern cosmic rationalism and the adoration of pragmatism, resulting in the rationalization of the irrational. All these representatives belong to the shadow of modern optimistic/technocratic cultures, where all mysteries got revealed and shrunk to packets and webs of information, without any meaning in themselves. This new movement rebelled in a way against rationalism, by creating a new, irreligious aesthetic that equates the poetic result with supernatural beauty. There were several movements on the other side of the Atlantic as well (Arthur Machen, Bruno Schulz, Vladimir Nabocov, Robert Aickman?), Ligotti however was able to reach such depths that none of his predecessors were able to able.

Ligotti himself lists H.P. Lovecraft as his biggest influence, since he was the first one to give the message that the universe is totally indifferent to human existence and confirmed some of Ligotti's suspicions "about this world". However, there are differences in how their main protagonists behave in front of their doom. Like Lovecraft, Ligotti is describing the blind and purposeless flow of things, where personal human conscience has no more significance than that of a fungus. Despite initial similarities, Lovecraft's heroes do resist against their bad fate and struggle to save themselves, whereas Ligotti's protagonists are more surrendered and they even sometimes run ecstatically towards the direction of their disaster, knowing how vain it would be to resist, and how their doom is custom-made and destined for no one else. Finally, Lovecraft's protagonists tell you that they are getting crazy, whereas Ligotti's protagonists literally make you feel it.

Most of Ligotti's stories have to do with humans who realize the frightening truth by means of a distorted and enhanced perception. At the same time they discover the unreliability of the universe and that the sensory world is just an illusion, behind which hides a truer, but more terrifying reality outside time and space. By the end, the protagonists question everything they had come to know as true about this world, being carried away by something unexplainably "Other", which is horrifically more real than what they had known all this time. Ligotti ascertains that pain is the essence of organic life and feels repulsion at the mere idea of organity. Sometimes his beliefs remind us of a mixture of Gnostic dogmas (where it is believed that between humans and the real God lies a crazy God known to us by the name "Creator"; the difference with Gnostics is that Ligotti doesn't believe in this real God either)

Ligotti has the unique talent in infusing a sense of paranoia in the plot of his stories and creating an ominous atmosphere by describing these weird moments in the lives of humans when a usual object or situation may suddenly acquire a malicious and threatening air.

Ligotti is known for his philosophical nightmares that are based on outbursts of cosmic nihilism and which lead to a dark enlightenment where everything indicates Ligotti's biggest fear: that we are all trapped inside an infinite universe before and after our death. His main "message" is that there is no consolation in this or any other world. And this is not a metaphorical pretense but the personal belief of the writer through his own experience with life3.

Apart from his obsession with themes of loneliness and isolation, Ligotti is a loyal documentator of the inner reality which he experiences directly, an autobiographer of the deepest levels of his soul. The horrible insanity of this world has such an impact on the souls of sensitive people, that it can make the work of an artist abominable. However, as negative or as dark Ligotti's stories can be, they don't stop being true in a way. Something that most of his readers remark is how consoling his work can be to their lives. It works like a kind of psychological homeopathy when a poisoned person can only be healed by another poison-antidote. Despite everything, the mere fact that Ligotti has a great sense of humor (which shows in his few interviews and even in some of his stories) means that he deeply remains human.

The collection of "nihilistic poems" (Ligotti has described them as such) I Have a Special Plan For This World came out in 20004, in 125 copies out of which only 100 were for sale - naturally, it sold out before it even came out. Right now, the collection is extremely rare and even more rarely does it surface at on-line markets and sell for extremely high prices5. It must be one of the best of Ligotti's works so far and a sample of the distillation of his talent. Thomas Ligotti, at the apex of his author's career (and having already created a "ligottian" kind of literature which will definitely enlist him among classics) is an unrivalled psycho topographer: every object, every landscape, every crooking building, every cloud, is a piece of psychic material, that's projected from the protagonist, thus by extension from the author himself. That's why Ligotti has the ability to penetrate our soul and touch us on such a personal level. "There"s no hope for escape from this dream?, when it proves to be at the very centre of our own souls.

1 Where he worked as an editor at Gale Group for two decades. He currently lives in Tampa, Florida, doing the same job, but as a free-lancer.
2 His work so far is the following: Songs of a Dear Dreamer (1985), Grimscribe: His Lives and Works (1991), Noctuary (1994), The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein and Other Gothic Tales (1994), The Nightmare Factory (1996: Ergostasio Efialton in Greek, "Oxy" publications, a good start to get introduced to Ligotti), In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land (1997), I Have a Special Plan For This World (2000, verse), This Degenerate Little Town (2001, verse), What Good is Your Head (2002, verse), My Work Is Not Yet Done (2002), Crampton (2003, script with Brandon Trenz) and Sideshow and Other Stories (2003).
3 Ligotti has been suffering from panic attacks for many years, a situation that has lead him to reclusion, to the point of eremitism. He rarely comes into contact with people and even more rarely does he give interviews (the picture of his face is unknown, since there is no available photo of him anywhere), something that of course has to do with his whole life attitude, but probably even more with his pathological condition
4 At the same time a same titled CD by British post-industrial group Current 93 came out . The album is a paramusical landscape where the poems of Ligotti are recited, causing auditory hallucinations and a primordial type of fear. In the last verse, David Tibet's speech gets corrupted and distorted and this (taking the Ligottian universe into account) could be symbolizing the beginning of the disintegration of Conscience and Soul. The consonants are the ones that face the most "corruption, and this is very important, since it's the consonants that enforce an inflexible shape over something that would otherwise be a vague landscape of vowels. In Western tradition, the deformation of language is a distinct signal from the other world and dead souls. With the collapse of the language and in extension that of the world, someone can "travel" at the magic world that has always existed behind and outside words. The journey to the 4th dimension can be realized by cracks in syntax. In the past, Ligotti has worked with C93 as well. The collection In a Foreign Land, In a Foreign Town is accompanied by another C93 CD, which is recommended to be listened concurrently with the reading of the stories.
5 Please allow me here for a more personal note: These poems are translated for the first time in another language and I feel extremely honored to be the one to have translated them in Greek. I don't have any connection with the translation or literature field. I am just an obsessed reader who collects all of Ligotti's work-who is obviously my favorite modern writer. I own # 108 of the original I Have a Special Plan for This World edition and this translation occurred almost accidentally, out of a hobby, several months ago.
Thanks From:
G. S. Carnivals (11-06-2010)
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