13 June, 2021

A Banquet Of Spectres

All of India has its bhoots; Bengal has made a respectable genre out of 'ghost-writing'

A Banquet Of Spectres
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
It was a dark and stormy night..." wrote Snoopy in the comic strip, and never progressed beyond. Now, with Schulz dead, who can confirm if the stumped beagle was attempting a ghost story all along? Even the Irish writer Sheridan le Fanu, decidedly more experienced at storytelling than Snoopy, had balked at writing about a ghost: "Pen, ink, and paper are cold vehicles for the marvellous," he complained, "and a reader is decidedly a more critical animal than a listener."

The ghost story is essentially a folk form, usually better told than written. We know this, having listened to so many ourselves - punctuated by the swatting of mosquitoes during power cuts, and in train journeys, after which the long blue-lit corridor to the toilet was impregnated with silent menace. At some time or other we have all shot that slightly shame-faced look over the shoulder after a hair-raising story-telling session. This oxymoronic spin - the pleasing terror, the delicious fright - is fundamental to our enjoyment of tales of the spectral. Paradoxically, the more terrified we are, the...

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