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The Sound Of His Horn

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Sphere, London, 1969
(price: 5/-)
(first published in Great Britain by Peter Davies, 1952)

The blurb on the back:

Alan Querdilion, a young naval lieutenant, is captured by the Germans and wakes up in a hospital bed - more than 100 years later.
The Germans have won the war, and the Third Reich stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic. Non Aryans are bred as slaves. Deprived of speech and intelligence by the surgeon's knife, they serve their masters with their bodies.
Count Hans von Hackelnberg, master of the Reich's forests, rules his domain with the iron fist of a feudal lord. His passion is hunting. At night the sound of his horn echoes eerily through the moonlit forest as the pack closes in on its prey.
A pack of half naked cat girls, their hands sheathed in iron claws and their bellies starved of fresh meat. And their quarry, as Alan discovers too late, is ... himself

Bit of a cult classic, this one, as well as being a strange little book. Alan Querdilion is captured by German troops during the 1941 evacuation of Crete and spends the next couple of years in a PoW camp in Germany. An attempted escape from the camp ends with him losing consciousness. When he wakes up, he finds himself in the next century, in a Europe still ruled by the Third Reich. He also finds himself the prisoner of Count Hans von Hackelnberg, a sadistic Nazi nobleman who - in an echo of Richard Connell's 'The Most Dangerous Game' - enjoys hunting human game.

Bizarrely, this edition of the novel comes with an introduction by Kingsley Amis in which he compares the piece to Dracula and to Keats' The Eve of St Agnes as an 'autoerotic fantasy'. I'm not quite sure why the publishers felt the need to invoke Amis' approval, but he's undoubtedly right to some extent. There's a strong vein of S&M porn in this: women are both hunters and hunted in the games played by the Count, whilst the lighting in the castle is provided by lighted torches held by naked women (prefiguring the living statues you might encounter in Anne Rice's Beauty trilogy).

But above and beyond the women, there is the figure of the Count himself, a much more powerful image:

He belonged neither to my century nor the Doctor's; he was remoter from the gross, loud-mouthed Nazi politicians round him than they were from me. Their brutality was the brutality of an urban, mechanised herd-civilisation, the sordid cruelty of a loud-speaker and tommy-gun tyranny. Hans von Hackelnberg belonged to an age when violence and cruelty were more personal, when right of rule resided in a man's own bodily strength; such individual ferocity as his belonged to the time of the aurochs, to the wild bulls of that dark and ancient German forest which the City had never subdued.

Even extensive quoting, though, won't do justice to this book. It's a short work but a damn effective one, having all the qualities of a half-forgotten nightmare. Find a copy, and check out the link below to find out more about Sarban himself.

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an alternative edition


visit a Sarban website