„Episodes Before Thirty” Algernon Blackwood

“You have been an Indian in a recent life, and you will go back to their country to work off certain painful Karma. You were Aztec, Inca, Egyptian, and, before that again, Atlantean. With the world to-day you have nothing in common, for none of the souls you knew have come back with you. Nature means more to you than human beings. Beware!”

Recently, I got to know Algernon Blackwood’s work and I can say that I truly fell in love with him. All because of Olga from Wielki Buk who introduced me to him few months ago J

Algernon Henry Blackwood (14.03.1869 – 10.12.1951) is a ghost short story writer and a novelist. In early years he worked as a journalist in New York, first for Evening Sun, then for Times. He was also a broadcasting narrator on BBC, where he read, of course, ghost stories J

The most popular work of his are: “The Wendigo” and “The Willows”, however, they’re not my favourite. Of course, I am not an expert in the subject, as I have read maybe about 10 short stories of his, but that was enough to fall in love anyways J I even informed my fiancé that we are going to call our future son: Algernon. That resulted in argument what is the short of this name. We vacillate between Algierek and Genonek but “Episodes Before Thirty” resolved the problem, as I find out that author’s father called him Algie in short 😉 Nice J

“Episodes before Thirty” is autobiographical book by Blackwood. It is a sort of diary started in 1890 when author is 21 years old and try to become a farmer (with not very good effect), and finished just before he turns 30. At first I thought it won’t be easy to read. I struggle through first few pages, but I was determined to get to know author better, then decided to read one chapter at a time, every day. That didn’t work either, because in 4-th or 5-th chapter I really got into the story, and read the rest of the book in three days 😉

I loved the way he writes about his family. It was like he, himself was sitting beside me, telling me stories about his childhood. He was brought up in very religious home. His parents, deeply believing in God, taught him to trust in his faith, to pray, but didn’t introduce him to a real life. Algernon, until he left home in age of 21, never drank alcohol or try to smoke. That, maybe wouldn’t be shocking if he didn’t admit that he also never even danced with a girl, nor hold woman’s waist. When his father found out that his son opened a tavern, he said to his brother: “He is lost; his soul is lost. Algie has gone to—Hell!”

The new life was a bit of a shock to him. He didn’t know how to behave properly. It happened that he offended one family when one participant of a banquet brought his sister to be introduced to Algernon. Custom oblige a man to ask introduced woman for a dance. Algie didn’t know that nor could he dance. After a moment of looking awkwardly at each other and no reaction from Blackwood, the man and his sister left, deeply offended.

Author, thinking about his friend, said one time: “Lucky beggar! He hadn’t got to write home and explain to evangelical and teetotal parents what he was doing!”

I wish there was more of that, but author focused on his life and work in New York. He left England against his father wish. Even in the worst times, when he was very sick and starving, he wouldn’t ask for help from his family.

When few of his projects has failed, Algernon had suffered poverty and hunger. He was offered a job as a reporter for a newspaper. Here’s how he describes this new experience:

“He gave me, however, my first assignment— to write a short, descriptive article about a cargo of wild animals that had just arrived for the New York “Zoo.” I hurried off to the steamer, bought some paper, wrote the article in a pew of Trinity Church in Lower Broadway, and returned three hours later to submit it. Storey read it and said without enthusiasm it would do, but when I asked “Is it good?” he shook his head with the comment “Well—some men would have made more of it perhaps.” It was printed, however, and in due course I got ten dollars for it. I inquired if I could do something else. He took my address. No further results followed. Evidently, I realized, writing was not my line.”

He was so wrong! 😀

The truth is he wasn’t doing very well at first. He hasn’t got a courage and impudence that good reporter should be stipulated by. But he could write. It just took him few years to adapt to a new role.

He was very interesting man. He fluently spoke German and French. He loved nature (his novels and short stories often give evidence of this passion) and books, he also played fiddle.

“And, truth to tell, it was not so much the lure of gold that called me, as the lure of the wilderness. I longed to see the big trees again, to smell the old naked earth, to hear water falling and feel the great winds blow. … It was an irresistible call. (…) The draw of the woods, the call of the open air, moreover, always potent, had become insistent. Spring added its aching nostalgia that burned like a fever in my veins.”

All that just sharpened my appetite to get to know the man better and read more of his works. I am determined to find Blackwood’s biography by Mike Ashley “Starlight Man” (2001) I hope my local library might be helpful in that matter.

If you like Blackwood or would like to read some of his short stories, I recommend this page: www.algernonblackwood.org You can download it and read in pdf format or print it out. Many of items are also available from well-known Gutenberg Project: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/1370

More interesting pages:

http://alangullette.com/lit/blackwood/

http://www.zone-sf.com/mikeashley.html

My Dictionary:https://notagainlola.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/dictionary-1-episodes-before-thirty-a-blackwood/

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