|Aickman photographed by Jean Richardson|
Is Robert Aickman the twentieth century’s ‘most profound writer of what we call horror stories and he, with greater accuracy, preferred to call strange stories’? That was the view of Peter Straub, celebrated author of Ghost Story among others. I think ‘most profound’ is perfectly justifiable even before we get to considerations of style, which in the case of Aickman are considerable. The work is pregnant with unease, melancholia and dread – perfect, then, for this time of year, and also for any other.
Possibly Aickman is one of those writers who will never get his due, doomed to a purgatory of perpetual ‘rediscovery’; but the rediscoveries keep getting bigger. The British Library has now acquired and catalogued his archive, and there will be an event at the Library this Friday, hosted by your correspondent, to mark the occasion and celebrate the man and his work.
To speak of only one treasure in that archive: the Library now holds the manuscript of Aickman’s only unpublished novel, ‘Go Back at Once’ (1975); and that title is so marvellous and so very Aickman that I’m not sure I’d even want to read the work, such is my pleasure in just knowing that it exists.