Alessandro Valencci

I just finished reading a translation (I don’t speak Spanish) of Alessandro Valencci’s 1925 Argentinian horror classic Hellephant: Footprints in Flesh.  For those of you familiar with Italian/Argentinian writer Valencci’s work, you will understand if I say I was scared stiff.  I’m know absolutely nothing about Argentinian fiction.  I gather they’re into magic realism because of the Spanish influences, but I’ve never understood the buzz about Argentinian horror novels … until now.  Hellephant scared me to death.  Immediately after I finished it, I found a picture of the author on the internet and did a small painting of him on a scrap of masonite with a matte medium base.  The values are a little strange because of the scan.

For those of you interested, below are three excerpts from a 1965 interview with Darien Fredricks and Alessandro Velencci contained in “The Orbis Journal of Books.”  I think it’s funny that he thinks we’re too hung up on Hemingway.

I typed out the three most interesting parts (in my opinion).

AV: I’m not a horror author.

DF: You don’t see yourself that way?

AV: No.

DF: But, your primarily–

AV: I don’t see myself that way.  I try to write literature that strikes against time–strikes against the press of time–refutes time.  The dullness.

DF: The weariness.

AV: Yes.  Time dulls our experience of life.  It fogs up our lenses.

DF: Is that why your work provokes fear?  To clarify?

AV: I hope it provokes many clarifying emotions.  Fear is one of many.

DF: Is it the strongest?

AV: For me yes.  I must say yes.

DF: Your work is received very well in Britain, but not so much in the United States.

AV: There is an undercurrent of appreciation, but not mass appeal.

DF: But what about the States prevents appreciation?

AV: They are much into sparseness–Hemingway.  They still have not recovered from Hemingway.

DF: But they have an appetite for fantasy in film.

AV: Juvenile fantasy.  In film.  My novels you cannot make into film.

DF: They’re psychological.

AV: Yes. Yes. Psychological.  The horror films are monster stories.  Juvenile.

DF: Some might say your novel Hellephant is a monster novel.

AV: Some have said it.  But it is more.

DF: Brooks Davis in a review for “The Letter” said, “It satisfies the hole in the modern soul where poetry used to reside.  Reynard’s flight, for I must not say journey, is a meditation on the seemingly reckless, but actually precise force of judgement.”

DF: What made you think of–some might say this idea is far out.  A demonic elephant is–

AV: But is he demonic?

DF: Well, the title is–

AV: That’s a publisher’s title.

DF: Is it accurate?

AV: In Argentina the book is titled Vivir Quiero Conmigo.

DF: Which means?

AV: “I Want To Live With Myself.”  It is much more literary, but Americans prefer action and external emphasis.

DF: How did you come to write the book?

AV: The seed of the idea started when I was a boy in Italy the first time I heard a train whistle.  It was a primal experience.

DF: Did the whistle scare you?

AV: Yes.  I was scared by the sound because it sounded like it came from an animal not a machine.  It sounded alive–an agony of breath.  And yet, the trains traveled very fast–machine-like.  I began to have nightmares of trains leaving their tracks in order to smash me over.

DF:  That does sound like the stuff of nightmares.  How did it turn into an elephant?

AV: Much later I went with my wife on an expedition in Africa.  When I first heard an elephant I thought.  That’s it.  I saw the two in unity.  The elephant seemingly has no tracks, but yet it leaves behind an imprint of destruction.  A physical testimony.  I thought train tracks and elephant tracks might be an interesting spot to start an examination of the fear of judgement.

DF: Do you find one more terrifying than the other?  Because it seems to me that a person hit by a train is a metaphor for fate.  There are tracks.  You know exactly the path of the train.

AV: Yes. Yes.  Exactly.

DF: And yet an elephant is unpredictable.

AV: Yes, but what if the tracks are there with the elephant, but we cannot see them?

DF: And that seems to be the key of your novel.

AV: Yes.  In my mind–the force and purpose of the train placed into a creature to represent the momentum of judgement.

DF: And when Reynard hears the signal of the elephant, or in this case Hellephant, my hairs stood on end.

Mine did too!

UPDATE:

Of course there is no such person as Alessandro Valencci.  It was a late night.

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Published by Zach

I'm a writer and illustrator living in Creedmoor NC.

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