Tag Archives: santiago caruso

Santiago Caruso and The Songs of Maldoror

What’s this strangeness? Illustrated book covers from Spanish language editions? And of weird or obscure books? But look, the marvellous Santiago Caruso is involved. So we did it. We are fearless. Our weird art theme has returned.


We’ve long been admirers of the exquisite covers on the books of Editorial Valdemar, an independent Spanish publisher based in Madrid. The company was set up by Rafael Diaz Santander and Juan Luis Gonzalez at the end of the eighties, and now has a fantastic range of Spanish language gothic fiction, horror, fantasy and science fiction literature. Thomas Ligotti, H P Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes in Castilian, no less.


Not only do Editorial Valdemar cover some of the greatest classics in weird literature through their Gothic collection, but they have also introduced translations of contemporary works via their Insomnia range. They now offer Caitlin R Kiernan, Graham Masterton and others as well.


It’s those illustrated covers, though. Valdemar recently announced that they were issuing The Songs of Maldoror (about which more later), with a cover and illustrations by one of our favourite weird artists, Santiago Caruso. In his honour, we have chosen his and some of the other striking Valdemar covers, to display today.


For those people interested in the particular book in question, here’s Valdemar’s release information in our (very) loose English translation, with the original Spanish below it.

Valdemar-cabra“Finally, three months late, we just sent to press the 100th of our Gothic publications. There have been some problems, yes, we have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but in the end it was worth it. It is a work that we wanted to edit almost from the beginning of the founding of Valdemar, and it would have been a perfect number 1 of the collection of “The Cursed” or “A Library of Hell” we never got to do. So we thought it was a good idea for it to be the 100th Gothic publication – The Songs of Maldoror. The edition is illustrated by the great Santiago Caruso, and is complemented by the poems and letters of Isidore Ducasse, and a profuse collection of notes by Mauro Ermine. I want to thank all the fans of the Gothic collection by making it possible that we have come this far.”


“Por fin, con tres meses de retraso, acabamos de mandar a imprenta el número 100 de la Gótica. Ha habido algunos problemas, es cierto, hemos estado al borde del ataque de nervios, pero al final ha merecido la pena. Es una obra que nos apetecía editar casi desde el principio de la fundación de Valdemar, habría sido un número 1 perfecto de una colección de “malditos” o “una biblioteca del Infierno” que nunca llegamos a hacer. Así que nos pareció una buena idea que fuera el número 100 de la Gótica: LOS CANTOS DE MALDOROR. La edición va ilustrada por el grandísimo SANTIAGO CARUSO, y se complementa con los poemas y las cartas de Isidore Ducasse, además de un profuso aparato de notas a cargo de Mauro Armiño. Quiero agradeceros a todos los seguidores de la colección Gótica por haber hecho posible que hayamos llegado hasta aquí.”


Despite the fact that we really want to look at the pictures, we feel that we should tell you a bit about The Songs of Maldoror. The work itself is somewhat mad, and has been compared to a romantic version of William Burroughs going off the rails. It’s not exactly a greydogtales recommendation because quite frankly some people say that it’s too difficult to follow. Others find it inspiring (it has some good imagery in it, certainly).


It’s either a prose poem or a poetic novel, with six long cantos (or chunks). It’s not exactly linear, and it is rather surreal. Written around 1868-69 by Isidore-Lucien Ducasse when he was in his early twenties, it has no plot as such. It might be easiest to use the Penguin Classics blurb to try and describe it:

“…it follows the experiences of Maldoror, a master of disguises pursued by the police as the incarnation of evil, as he makes his way through a nightmarish realm of angels and gravediggers, hermaphrodites and prostitutes, lunatics and strange children. Delirious, erotic, blasphemous and grandiose by turns…”


The world of Maldoror is violent and confusing, and is said to have been a major influence upon the surrealists, French symbolism and the Dadaist movement.

el horror sobrenatural en la literatura valdemar

Ducasse, a French writer born in Uruguay, wrote it under the pseudonym Comte de Lautremont. He died at the age of only 24, probably from fever during the 1870 siege of Paris.

Amazingly he thus managed to endure two sieges in his short life. When he was a boy he was caught up in the siege of Montevideo which was part of the war between Argentina and Uruguay. This makes his misfortune at being besieged in Paris by the Prussians rather weird in itself.


Apparently Ducasse had meant to write a ‘good’ counterpoint to The Songs of Maldoror, but never finished it. Paris surrendered two months after his death, by the way.



Regular listeners, who will therefore have no need of laxatives, will know that we love trivia here, and so we cannot help but mention that Valdemar the Great won the battle of Grathe (Grey) Heath in 1157 and went on to ruled Denmark. Greyheath, greydog – we couldn’t miss that out.

In addition, Bodegas Valdemar in Spain produce a nice rioja, and Valdemar is the overall title for Mercedes Lackey‘s famous series of fantasy novels, starting chronologically with The Black Gryphon. Which brings us back to weird fiction rather nicely.


You can drool over more Editorial Valdemar covers here (or even buy some of the books if you read Spanish)

valdemar main site

And there is a sadly Caruso-less translation of The Songs of Maldoror still available from Penguin. Nice cover, though.

41-0W3Oc2qLthe songs of maldoror


Next time on godknowswhatwe’redoingtales, David Senior shares his striking photography and talks about his writing as well.

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Hellboy, Santiago Caruso & the Three Sir Edward Greys

We like history. We like real history (if there is such a beast), and we like weird, invented history as well. So today’s broadcast starts with Santiago Caruso, the talented Argentinian illustrator mentioned on here before. Why? Because of Sir Edward Grey. We are greydogtales, our first new Carnacki story was Grey Dog and we’ve just completed the novella A Study in Grey. We couldn’t resist this one.

This post will go backwards. It may make more sense than our forward ones. The other day our enormous South American intelligence network (OK, mostly Diego Arandojo and Sebastian Cabrol) alerted us that Santiago Caruso had illustrated an edition of the comic Abe Sapien from Dark Horse. Abe Sapien #30 – Witchcraft and Demonology, to be precise.


As far as we know this is Caruso’s first major comics project, and it looks fabulous. Much of his main body of work is dark, even surreal, and his style really suits the comic.

santiago caruso

But who or what is Abe Sapien? Comics enthusiasts will know the character from Mike Mignola‘s various series concerning Hellboy, who first appeared in 1993 in a promotional short produced with John Byrne. Abe Sapien himself had his own first spin-off comics outing in 1998, in Drums of the Dead.

santiago caruso

Film fans will know him, in a slightly different version, from the original 2004 Hellboy film and the sequel, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008).


Abraham Sapien was born as Langdon Everett Caul, became a scientist in Victorian times, and ended up the way he is because of experiments performed on him after an encounter with an aquatic deity/monster. These occult experiments were conducted by the Oannes Society. There are two great things about this information.

The first is the old sailor’s legend that people born with a caul around their faces will never drown (the caul is part of the birth membrane, and occasionally has to be removed from the new-born). These were once prized by mariners, who thought they brought good luck and protected them from death at sea. Given that Abe Sapien is amphibious and potentially immortal, the surname Caul was well chosen.

mike mignola (we think)

The second is that Oannes is, of course, another name for Dagon, beloved of H P Lovecraft and those who wrote after him – and a Middle-Eastern deity who had the form of both fish and man. Dagon is also the God of the Philistines in the Hebrew Bible. Oannes was supposed to rise from the waters and bring artistic and scientific gifts to mankind.

As part of Mignola’s Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, Abe, Hellboy and others protect America from paranormal and supernatural threats. And in that role they encounter, yes, you guessed it, Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder. You knew it would make sense, didn’t you? No? Oh well.

We have a declared interest in characters who survive beyond their natural years through one method or another. We always loved Adam Adamant, the TV series where an Edwardian adventurer was frozen in a block of ice and thawed out in the 1960s. It had a great theme tune, too, sung by Kathy Kirby – and Juliet Harmer as Georgina Jones was gorgeous, too.

Our own Last Edwardian and erstwhile friend of Carnacki the Ghost Finder, Henry Dodgson, is still around today, but without the intervention of occultism, paranormal experiments, aliens, genetics or involuntary refrigeration.


Anyway, Sir Edward Grey. Another Victorian, like Abe, and more commonly known as the Witchfinder, Sir Edward is not only an occult detective but gifted with supernatural powers of his own. The Witchfinder comics began with the five part In the Service of Angels, written by Mike Mignola and drawn by Ben Stenbeck, published in 2009. If you don’t know this, Kim Newman, that well-known critic and author of the weird, took hold of some of the writing reins in 2014 for another five-parter, The Mysteries of Unland, written with Maura McHugh.


In short, after some occult detecting of his own, Sir Edward is asked by Queen Victoria to become a special agent of the crown, looking into the paranormal, supernatural and downright icky. He is knighted after foiling an assassination attempt on the queen, and goes on to investigate the foul activities of various warlocks, witches and vampires, becoming increasingly concerned about the plans of certain occult brotherhoods.


After leaving the queen’s service, he has his own occult detective practice in London, and is active there during the Edwardian period. We have a sneaking feeling that Sir Edward should have (and may have) met Carnacki, although their techniques would have probably had them at odds.

Unlike Carnacki, who definitively disappeared after “the incident” on Roulston Scar (that’s our story, and we’re sticking with it), the Sir Edward Grey of the comics reappears a century later. This time he seems more of a supernatural figure himself, masked, robed and mysterious with some cracking warlockian powers. In this incarnation he can be found in Hellboy in Hell, an ongoing series scripted again by Mike Mignola, with art by Dave Stewart.


But Edwardian is our game for the moment, which links to our next, slightly more real Sir Edward Grey (1862 – 1933), who was the UK’s Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916, – and thus in Government at the time when William Hope Hodgson was writing. He was also there when Henry Dodgson, Abigail Jessop and our other characters were carrying on the work of Cheyne Walk, of course.


Rather excitingly, our novella A Study in Grey completely fails to mention that the background of the Balkans crisis (discussed therein) would have been coloured by Sir Edward Grey’s negotiations with Russia. Sir Edward hoped that Britain, France and Russia would provide a brake to the ambitions of the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Had we dwelt on this aspect, of course, much snoring and bored muttering would have occurred. So we left it out.

There is a chance you already know him, but probably not by name. This is the chap who stood looking out over a London evening at the outbreak of World War One and uttered the famous words:

“The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.”

A Liberal politician and, we think, the longest serving Foreign Secretary in British history. Thrilling, eh? Nothing like a bit of period detail.

So who is the third Sir Edward Grey? That’s the easiest of the lot. As you will have been taught in school, Sir Edward Grey (c. 1415–1457) was the father of Sir John Grey of Groby, whose wife Elizabeth Woodville later married King Edward IV of England. Got that? There will be a test next week.

lady jane grey

Such a lineage makes Sir Edward, yes, the great-great-great-grandfather of Lady Anne Grey, who at the age of sixteen or seventeen managed to be Queen of England for nine days.

Rather unfortunately she was executed in 1554, having done nothing wrong except being a Protestant and in the way of the Catholic “Bloody Mary”. Mary’s nickname came from her rather unpleasant habit of burning Protestant dissenters at the stake – almost 300 of them. Luckily for some, Elizabeth I came along not long after, which was extremely handy given that this was the Elizabethan Age. What are the chances, eh?

Ave Cover #1.jpeg

We have kept our promise. Three Sir Edward Greys, and another record for the greydogtales archives. Thank you for listening, and goodnight.

On this channel next week – a dead author or two, and lurchers. Must have lurchers…


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