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King Candaules   By: (1811-1872)

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King Candaules, written by Théophile Gautier, is a captivating and thought-provoking book that takes readers on a journey through the ancient kingdom of Lydia. Set in a time surrounded by opulence and power, this book explores themes of desire, betrayal, and the consequences of arrogance.

Gautier's writing style in King Candaules is both eloquent and poetic, effortlessly transporting readers to a bygone era. His descriptions are vivid, painting a detailed picture of the sights, sounds, and emotions experienced by the characters. From the luxurious palaces to the lush landscapes, the author brings the setting to life, making the reader feel like an active participant in the story.

The characters in this book are complex and well-developed, each with their own flaws and motivations. King Candaules himself is a fascinating character, driven by his immense desire for power and control. His actions have far-reaching consequences, ultimately leading to his downfall. As the plot unfolds, Gautier skillfully explores the consequences of his hubris, showcasing the destructive power of pride and arrogance.

One aspect that stands out in King Candaules is its exploration of desire and voyeurism. The book delves into the themes of curiosity and the danger of pushing boundaries, as King Candaules insists on revealing his wife's beauty to a stranger. This act sets in motion a chain of events that has dire consequences for everyone involved.

Another strength of this book is Gautier's ability to create a sense of tension and anticipation. The reader is constantly on edge, eagerly awaiting the outcome of the characters' choices. The pacing of the narrative is well-executed, with moments of suspense and revelation expertly interwoven throughout the story.

However, one minor drawback of King Candaules is that at times the prose can be overly verbose, which may be a challenge for some readers. Additionally, the book's focus on court intrigue and political machinations might not appeal to those looking for a fast-paced action-packed plot.

In conclusion, King Candaules is a captivating and intricately constructed piece of literature that explores the depths of desire, the consequences of unchecked hubris, and the precarious nature of power. Théophile Gautier's masterful storytelling and evocative descriptions make this book a literary gem that will stay with readers long after the final page.

First Page:


By Théophile Gautier

Translated By Lafcadio Hearn



Five hundred years before the Trojan war, and seventeen hundred and fifteen years before our own era, there was a grand festival at Sardes. King Candaules was going to marry. The people were affected with that sort of pleasurable interest and aimless emotion wherewith any royal event inspires the masses, even though it in no wise concerns them, and transpires in superior spheres of life which they can never hope to reach.

As soon as Phoebus Apollo, standing in his quadriga, had gilded to saffron the summits of fertile Mount Tmolus with his rays, the good people of Sardes were all astir, going and coming, mounting or descending the marble stairways leading from the city to the waters of the Pactolus, that opulent river whose sands Midas filled with tiny sparks of gold when he bathed in its stream. One would have supposed that each one of these good citizens was himself about to marry, so solemn and important was the demeanour of all.

Men were gathering in groups in the Agora, upon the steps of the temples and along the porticoes. At every street corner one might have encountered women leading by the hand little children, whose uneven walk ill suited the maternal anxiety and impatience. Maidens were hastening to the fountains, all with urns gracefully balanced upon their heads, or sustained by their white arms as with natural handles, so as to procure early the necessary water provision for the household, and thus obtain leisure at the hour when the nuptial procession should pass... Continue reading book >>

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