The Panther (Rachilde)

The Panther is a short story collection by Rachilde. I read the German translation by Paul Zifferer and Berta Huber. The collection was edited by and includes an introduction by Susanne Farin, as well as an essay by Max Bruns.
Finished on: 17.2.2019

The Panther is an interesting collection of rather dark stories. Their tone is often a little emo, but definitely nicely written, even if the translations are rather dusty (the book was printed in 1989, but the translations are from 1911 and 1918). Rachilde has repeating themes in her stories which makes them a little monotonous when you read them all at once. But I liked them. What I hated was the essay by Max Bruns – that was pretty much unreadable because it is filled with sexism.

The book cover showing a simple drawing of a naked woman with a panther rubbing against her crotch.

[Read more about each of the stories after the jump.]

[Unfortunately I don’t know the original titles of the short stories, so I’ll give you the German titles, as well as a rough English translation.]

Die Weinlese von Sodom (The Grape Harvest of Sodom)

Content Note: sexualized violence

In Sodom, most women were turned out of the city. But during the grape harvest one of them comes back.

This story is a steep beginning for the collection, starting pretty horrifically and disgusting. Plus, I did not expect the sexualized violence and it hit me pretty hard – it felt like a punch in the gut. Effective, but phew.

Der Panther (The Panther)

The panther in the circus is hungry, but its time has come to eat.

This story is rather cruel and has a very pessimistic view of humanity. But then again: you go, cat, you deserve it.

Der Gezeichnete (The Marked One)

There are almost no people left in Florence – but there are many, many roses.

This story is one of my favorites in the collection, if not the favorite. The roses that take over the city, nature claiming everything back for itself. It’s unusual and has a captivating atmosphere.

Die letzte Versuchung (The Last Temptation)

Three priests sit down for a meal and discuss the problems that plague the church.

This story is very different from the others in the collection. It is so absurd, it had me laughing out loud (the priests are convinced they can solve the church’s problems by switching to oval altar bread).

Die Blutdürstige (The Bloodthirsty Woman)

The Moon Woman is hungry and sucks in all life she can get.

This story is quite the turn from the story that came before it – back to the heavy stuff. And it kinda blames the Moon Woman for the difficult situation of women in general which I found pretty tough. But it is written in a nice, poetic language.

Das träumende Pferd (The Dreaming Horse)

A strange man and a strange horse join the soldiers at their camp at night.

This story is my second favorite of the collection – a really strong horror story. I did not expect it but it is a moody and very cool piece. Plus, it is super creepy.

Der Froschtöter (The Frog Killer)

Something wakes Toniot in the middle of the night. But what could it be?

Poor, abandoned Toniot! This story is an argument for social networks, welfare and love – because without it, everything else goes wrong.

Die Mordmühle (The Murder Mill)

In a rather unusual, a little furtive mill, the miller and his new wife are hard at work.

This story is rather long and takes its time to characterize its protagonists – and it does so very well. At the same time, I couldn’t get into it emotionally as much as I would have liked.

Des Hundes Mahlzeit (The Dog’s Meal)

Two children, a boy and a girl, are reading in a garden.

This story has a post-apocalyptic feel that I enjoyed very much. It ends differently than I thought it would – more positively – which was also nice. I liked it.

Das große Festmahl der Schatten (The Big Feast of the Shadows)

A homeless man eats his meagre meal close to a castle that is sounding its own bell to call for lunch.

This story is very short and didn’t really stay in my head. It does have a touch of “poor rich people” which didn’t work for me, but it was okay overall.

Der Zahn (The Tooth)

Eating a cookie, she loses a tooth to her horror.

Freud would love this story – the tooth as the symbol for mortality is right up his alley. In any case, it is an excellent character study.

Die Gespensterfalle (The Ghost Trap)

The family moves into a new house – and there is something off about the house.

The story isn’t bad, but I think I would have liked it a lot more if it had found a different, more nostalgic tone.

Das verriegelte Schloß (The Closed Castle)

A traveler, visiting a friend, spies the ruins of a castle on the rocks not far away. But his hosts claim that there are no ruins.

I loved the idea of the rock/castle here and how things are framed here with regards to home/homeland. Really, a strong finish for the collection – and my third favorite.

Summarizing: An almost forgotten classic that deserves a rediscovery.

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