BOOK REVIEW – AMBROSE BIERCE – AN INHABITANT OF CARBOSA 1887
A potent and terrifying horror fable that was to be a big influence on H. P. Lovecraft who regarded it as one of his all time favourite stories. Some commentators see the story as a precursor to the Cthulhu Mythos, though it is more akin to the traditional ghost stories of M. R. James.
An un-named narrator finds himself lost in bleak, desolate woodland, where everything appears to be dead. All he wants to do is to go home to Carbosa. He soon realizes that the worn down stones around him are the remnants of an ancient graveyard, itself crumbling away to nothing.
He remembers being severely ill, and wanting to run away from the people caring from him, but being restrained. He reasons that he has got lost when he has somehow finally escaped, but he is unsure exactly how it happened.
He sees a wild Lynx, an owl, and a passing man, who fails to see him. Only then does he see a grave, which he identifies as his own, and realizes that he is dead and that the ruins and overgrowth are all that remains of his once proud city of Carbosa. There is something wild and primal about the story, its symbolism is intense. The caveman figure in the woods carries a torch as if it is night, though the narrator sees around himself as if it is still daytime. The owl also symbolises nighttime. The sheer sense of how long the hero has been dead, with his entire civilization reduced to dust is incredibly powerful.
A final line tells us that the story is being related to us through a spiritualist medium.
The full text of the now copyright free story is online at http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/L_carcos.htm
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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