Gormenghast: The Quadrilogy!

Reading & Writing

Who knew? It turns out there’s a fourth volume of Mervyn Peake’s astonishing gothic fantasia. Not only that, there are a hundred illustrations, 75% of which have never been seen before, and it’s all being presented by Mervyn’s son Sebastian, together with China Mieville, at the British Library this Friday, to celebrate the launch of ‘Titus Awakes’.

Or to put it another way, it’s all kicking off about 500 yards from my front door, and I’ll be away. What rubbish timing.

Peake’s life journey, from China to Eltham to Sark, and his shock at being one of the first to enter Belsen concentration camp, has all been well-documented, and of course there have been many versions of his books on stage (and one worthy if a little cash-strapped version on screen from the BBC, starring Jonathan Rhys-Myers) but how did we not know there was a fourth volume, finished by his widow Maeve?

I’ve always thought of the trilogy as a double-volume (duology?) mainly because Peake pretty much wraps up the tale of madness, death, power, romance and social climbing in the castle of Gormenghast in the first two books, with the third feeling like a strange addenda to the tale. Apparently the fourth has further wanderings of Titus Groan in the modern world, which doesn’t sound appealing. Even so, how come it took so long to hear about this?

5 comments on “Gormenghast: The Quadrilogy!”

  1. Rachel Green says:

    It does sound a little …suspect…but I shave have to buy and read it to satisfy my thirst for completeness.

  2. Rachel Green says:

    shave? I meant ‘shall’
    It feels like the ‘Lost Tolkeins’ where JRR wrote a sentence on a napkin and his son extrapolated the other 400 pages.

  3. Anne Fernie says:

    Takes me back to the 70s and being a student when the shiny, happy treehuggers were all lapping up Tolkien but those with a bit of a darker sensibility went for Peake. Does anyone else ‘mark’ the years with books that were a ‘must-read’ at the time (together with music of course. Nothing presses the nostalgia buttons more than seeing dog-eared copies of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ or the Castaneda books mouldering in a charity bookshop with evocative 35 year old flyleaf inscriptions like ‘Remember Goa?’……sigh……

  4. PaulJ says:

    Titus Awakes was written by Peake’s widow Maeve Gilmore based on tiny fragments of ideas left for the next book.
    By this point undiagnised parkinsons disease had made it impossible for him to continue writing.
    Well worth a look as a curiosity although I am not sure how well it will stand on it’s own.
    Also I think the launch event at the British Library is next Monday 11th. There is a second event on the 26th which still has tickets available which is about the rest of his work as far as I can see.

  5. Diogenes says:

    Titus Groan and Gormenghast are masterpieces. I have lent out so many unreturned copies that I no longer have one so I decided to buy them as first editions (about $A300 each). Amazingly there were two first editions at a private booksellers here in Adelaide. When I bought one, I discovered that the lady selling it was my wife’s aunt (from the unspoken of black sheep side of the family).

    Titus Alone was pretty ordinary and I’m guessing Titus Awakes will continue the decline.

    I can’t agree with Christopher about the Gormenghast BBC show. It was nowhere near dark enough. Much too twee and silly. I just couldn’t watch it.

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