The History of the Caliph Vathek by William Beckford

The History of the Caliph Vathek

byWilliam Beckford

Kobo ebook | November 29, 2012

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The novel chronicles the fall from power of the Caliph Vathek (a fictionalized version of the historical Al-Wathiq), who renounces Islam and engages with his mother, Carathis, in a series of licentious and deplorable activities designed to gain him supernatural powers. At the end of the novel, instead of attaining these powers, Vathek descends into a hell ruled by the demon Eblis where he is doomed to wander endlessly and speechlessly.

Vathek, the ninth Caliph of the Abassides, ascended to the throne at an early age. He is a majestic figure, terrible in anger (one glance of his flashing eye can make “the wretch on whom it was fixed instantly [fall] backwards and sometimes [expire]”), and addicted to the pleasures of the flesh. He is intensely thirsty for knowledge and often invites scholars to converse with him. If he fails to convince the scholar of his points of view, he attempts a bribe; if this does not work, he sends the scholar to prison. In order to better study astronomy, he builds an observation tower with 1,500 steps.

A hideous stranger arrives in town, claiming to be a merchant from India selling precious goods. Vathek buys glowing swords with letters on them from the merchant, and invites the merchant to dinner. When the merchant does not respond to Vathek's questions, Vathek looks at him with his "evil eye," but this has no effect, so Vathek imprisons him. The next day, he discovers that the merchant has escaped and his prison guards are dead. The people begin to call Vathek crazy. His mother, Carathis, tells him that the merchant was “the one talked about in the prophecy”, and Vathek admits that he should have treated the stranger kindly.

Title:The History of the Caliph VathekFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:November 29, 2012Publisher:AP Publishing HouseLanguage:English

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