The Nameless City is a horror story by Lovecraft, published in The Wolverine in November 1921.
This was actually to be my first ever reading of Lovecrafts work, so I really didn’t know what to expect; aside from my anticipation of a dark, and elaborate, style of writing.
Certainly, that is present – and, something I enjoy.
We begin reading from the perspective of an adventurer/archaeologist, who immediately foretells of a melancholic doom hovering over the place, as they spy it in the distance. They warn us of its age; suggestive of a time undoubtly best left ignored.
Lovecraft does a great job of showing how, through the generations, nearby humanity learns to forsake the place, even if they have forgotten why. It is almost instinct now, but is also fuel for the narrator who desires to explore.
“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.”
Lovecraft winds this story through a great deal of mystery and intrigue in the beginning, and whilst this is never out of place, it does tend to takes its time, as we are taken through various rooms of ever increasing darkness.
There is an interesting irony in this story, as we are shown a vibrant, dynamic, and overall sombre fate of ancient race, but via a contrasting and linear narrative. It’s not that this is the result of poor writing, in my view, but by the very nature of its perspective.
Still, many times I had to re-read parts to get my bearing, almost like the narrator themselves navigating the darkened abysses. It was this confusion and lack of clarity which held me back, even if somewhat poignant.
There are definitely some great descriptive moments, and there is powerful sense of isolation, and the toll of a journey taken so far into the unknown. It is believable, almost to the point of hopefulness of its reality.
The ending, though, feels murky, and perhaps a little too open to suggestion. Maybe that was the intent; and whilst it is sort of clear what happens, I still felt left in the dark.
For me, this was a tale too linear for its own good, despite the powerful imagery it creates. Being mixed with confusion, it dulled the overall experience on my part, though re-reading it helps bring it up.
Maybe this is something best appreciated over time; through the act of re-reading, would greater appreciation be found?
I think the greatest strength of The Nameless City is the world it created; strangely believable, and as with a lot of Lovecrafts work, oddly appealing; despite it all.