The Hospice – by Robert Aickman

I am celebrating the year’s anniversay of commencing my real-time reviewing of THE WEIRD, a truly massive anthology of stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. And seeing that the Guardian newspaper has today featured this particular story by Robert Aickman, here is a reprise of my review after the story was published in THE WEIRD last year:

The Hospice – Robert Aickman
“…it was as if most of these people had been with one another for a long time, during which things to talk about might have run out, and possibly with little opportunity for renewal through fresh experience.”
I am utterly delighted to re-read, re-value this ultimate classic of weird literature in the context of ‘The WEIRD’ and of my own late middle age / accreting old age.  It is of a male protagonist in an era without King’s Full Dark, No Stars sat-nav / gps contraption sent on a short cut and arrives at this private hotel (with petrol low in his car’s tank from having become lost) – (and no mobile contraption or even a phone in the ‘hotel’) – (and contraptions inadvertently unmentioned in my Third of the Way report above) – now faced with a claustrophobic concupiscence between the sexes, strikingly heavy meals (unexpectedly exaggerated but typified by the picture of spam soup earlier above), shapes in the night – but, earlier, anxiety sitting in the restaurant like a fish out of water (cf Dirk Bogarde in ‘Death in Venice’ hotel restaurant) and a sense of people of my general time-of-life  in “God’s waiting-room”: the common nickname for the area where I live. There is a pub nearby where people of my age regularly eat – a large steaming roast dinner a day. Not that I go there very often, myself, but when I do it is teeming with people I recognise from when I went there before – except for those accretingly absent…  An Age of Anxiety. The story’s weird unsettling grows artfully. The dust settling grew on this story, until I exhumed it today thanks to this book. It is a “bad dream“, true, but it is also the best thing since sliced bread. “‘…I have seldom seen a more gorgeous dress.’ / ‘Yes,’ she replied with simple gravity. ‘It comes from Rome. Would you like to touch it?‘” (19/11/11 – three hours later)


My much earlier comments on THE HOSPICE story relating to Brussel Sprouts etc: HERE



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4 responses to “The Hospice – by Robert Aickman

  1. Having completed my month-long real-time review of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN by Thomas Mann (HERE), I am convinced that it must have been an enormous influence, outweighing any other influence, on the fiction of Robert Aickman. This is not only because of the similarity I seem to be the first to observe between The Hospice and The House Berghof, and their residents, and their meals, but also because of many other factors, including tone and beguiling disarming undercurrents and tropes, an absurd-weirdness that borders on nightmare as well as rationality.

  2. I don’t want to harp on about this, but I genuinely think that – at least in
    part – that The Hospice (and Into The Wood?) forms a tribute to ‘The Magic
    Mountain’ and covers many of its themes which you can tick off one by one. And
    I think we know that Thomas Mann was one of Aickman’s major influences according
    to his letters. But I have been the first to decry this biographical type of
    literary criticism based on my life-long interest in the Intentional Fallacy! So
    I am torn.

    Fascinating observation elsewhere about ‘blood’ as a theme in ‘The Hospice’ – something I
    had not noticed. In the Mann book, there is a very significant descriptive
    nosebleed scene central to a particular memory of Hans Castorp (like Proust’s
    tea and petite madeleine scene) that in turn becomes a memory central to the
    whole book. I would have to re-examine the text for any other ‘blood’ themes in
    the Magic Mountain, though…!

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