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The Centaur Kindle Edition
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However, 'The Centaur' is, in reality, divorced from the genre in which Blackwood's fame is the largest - horror. It is a supernatural novel, and could comfortably be placed within the bounds of what Lovecraft called `weird' literature; but fans of Blackwood's horror tales may not necessarily enjoy this novel, it is immensely unconventional, and unlike anything I've read before - in short, it will only satisfy those of a particular taste, and those who wish to enquire further into Blackwood's thought. It is the very opposite of what one might term a `commercial' novel.
'The Centaur' is a practically plotless book; although a skeleton of a narrative does bind the thing together. Terrence O'Malley is a peculiar type of mystic who yearns for a true affinity with the Earth and loathes all the trappings of modern civilisation with its want of genuine content and happiness through nature, a society which favours the acquirement of endless material superficialities in its stead. He meets a strange, outwardly simple man and his son who seem to hold the key which would relieve O'Malley's insatiable desire for lifestyle intimate with that of the Earth, which he believes to be conscious. A spiritual revelation in the Caucasus Mountains inspires him to convert `blind' humanity to his world-view.
'The Centaur' holds absolutely no dramatic import; it relies on its often beautiful imagery and the prose-poetry in which it is written to ignite the reader's interest, and admittedly, it does for a good deal of the book. However, this book certainly was challenging; not intellectually, but actually forcing to oneself to get through a few more chapters of the novel - the complete lack of suspense or any sense of anticipation of some exciting revelation means many parts of the book come very close to plain tediousness. There's also a constant feeling that Blackwood is simply repeating himself in his long philosophical discussions, covering the same ground in a similar mass nebulous language; these tend to dominate the entire work. I would estimate that as much as a third of the book, if not more, could comfortably have been dispensed with, without loosing much of the novel's spirit; it does at times feel like a self-indulgency on Blackwood's part.
Having said that, the novel is successful in many areas, the often gorgeous language and poetry Blackwood is capable of generating is found in abundance here, often did I forget the absence of a real narrative when lost among some lovely turn of phrase or poetic image. His philosophy, though I did not find it plausible, was at times a joy to read and Blackwood's criticisms of our modern, mechanical society are even more relevant today, almost a century after this book's publication.
There is no doubt in my mind that 'The Centaur' would have benefited from a large reduction in its length, and whilst it certainly has its moments, it is a severely flawed work. Although, if you are of the naturalistic or ecological/spiritual persuasion, its merits will surely become more apparent. As it is, if you are to understand Blackwood thoroughly as an author and as a man, The Centaur is an essential read, and I'm glad I've finished it.
I would have rated it 2.5/5
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