THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF WORLD HORROR STORIES vol 1 edited by James D Jenkins & Ryan Cagle
Valancourt Books 2020, pb, £13.19
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
For those who think that horror is a literary genre confined to English-speaking countries the present anthology may come as a surprise, so much so considering that such a massive volume is only the first in a planned series exploring dark fiction from all over the world. Which proves, incidentally, that horror is an universal feeling and state of mind for people of different languages and cultures, with different histories and traditions.
The book is a veritable feast for horror lovers, especially for those sick of reading the same old genre clichés and of revisiting the usual, standardized atmospheres.
While I wholeheartedly recommend this interesting and quite enjoyable anthology as a whole, I’m taking advantage of my role as a reviewer to mention my own favourite stories therein.
“Uironda” by Italian author Luigi Musolino is a fascinating “twilight zone” tale featuring a truck driver bound to a mysterious destination, while Pilar Pedraza’s “ Mater Tenebrarum” is a wicked Spanish story about witchcraft. Another winner from Spain is “Snapshots” a very disturbing nightmare penned by José María Latorre, taking place inside a photo boot during a cold winter evening.
“Down, in Their World” by Romanian writer Flavius Ardelean is a very dark story where evil, inhuman , murderous creatures lurk in the depths of a deserted mine.
Mexican author Bernardo Esquinca contributes “Senor Ligotti”, a deeply disquieting piece portraying the complicated relationship of a wannabe writer with an old Mogul, while Finnish writer Marko Hautala provides “Pale Toes” a terrifying, claustrophobic tale set inside some forbidding underground caves.
Yvette Tan’s “All the Birds” is a great, sinister tale from the Philippines, blending sheer horror and lyricism.
My favourite story in the book is perhaps “Blackstairs” by Anders Fager, from Sweden, an outstanding piece where horror and psychoanalysis meet in a perfect fashion.
Finally, a word of praise for the Editors who evidently put a tremendous amount of work reading and choosing the material to include in the book and especially for James D Jenkins who personally translated in English most of the stories.