Frankenstein (Book review)

Frankenstein Mary Shelley Penguin English Library Cover
‘Frankenstein’ book cover © Penguin English Library

(The following review may be considered a bit spoiler-ish. Proceed at your own, gothic peril.)

‘The Nightmare of Romantic Idealism’ by Paul Cantor–
is the title of the epilogue/essay of this Frankenstein edition. And I mention it, because it might just as well be a most succinct epigraph for this classic novel.

Frankenstein is one of the products of the ghost story-telling sessions of Lord Byron, the Shelleys and the rest of their ‘locked down’ party at Villa Diodati during the ‘Year Without a Summer’ (1816); it’s something that’s mentioned in the Prologue of the book too. Moreover, this novel is also my second read from those literary products–Polidori’s The Vampyre being the first. Now, I normally don’t listen to music while reading, but somehow I ended up accompanying–and incredibly enhancing–my Frankenstein sessions with Abel Korzeniowski’s scores, and mostly the one for the Penny Dreadful tv series. Those of you who have watched this exceptional and very undervalued show are familiar with the Creature in it.

Yes, none other than Victor Frankenstein’s wretched, miserable creation.

Apart from reading Shelley’s atmospheric account of this tale while listening to the above-mentioned tunes, I also recommend that you follow the conflicted Creature’s journey in Penny Dreadful. Its depiction, personality, and grievances are as faithful to Shelley’s concept as they could ever be.

As for Shelley’s Promethean tale itself, it’s the poignant, emotionally charged instances when creator and creature converse that I mainly take away from; how they both tear each other’s existences into two, rendering themselves forever unable to reconcile the ensuing polarities within and falling prey to the ever unquenchable thirst for vengeance.

After one has reached the period of the story’s last sentence, the prelude-like quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost assumes its total meaning.

Having just finished reading the novel, and as the track ‘House of the Night Creatures’ is still playing in the background, I find myself trying to decide which quote from the novel to end this review with. There’s surely a passage, though, where the creature puts the aforementioned, soul-ripping war of polarities within him into words that will stay with me:

“A frightful selfishness hurried me on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse.[…] My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy, and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine.[…] I was the slave, not the master, of an impulse which I detested yet could not disobey.[…] Evil thenceforth became my good.”

What would Frankenstein say about this?


Further links:

The Creature – Penny Dreadful Wiki

Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ Book Review

The Philosopher (Flash Fiction Story)

YT-79605 (Dystopian Short Story)


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