Category: Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

1200px-Edgar_Allan_Poe,_circa_1849,_restored,_squared_offEdgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, United States, on January 19, 1809, and died on October 7, 1849, in Baltimore, United States. He was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story. He is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

Poe was the second child of actors David and Elizabeth “Eliza” Arnold Hopkins Poe. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died the following year. Thus orphaned, the child was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia. They never formally adopted him, but he was with them well into young adulthood. He attended the University of Virginia but left after a year due to lack of money. Edgar Poe quarrelled with John Allan over the funds for his education and enlisted in the Army in 1827 under an assumed name. It was at this time that his publishing career began with the anonymous collection Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), credited only to “a Bostonian”. Edgar Poe and John Allan reached a temporary rapprochement after the death of Frances Allan in 1829. Poe later failed as an officer cadet at West Point, declaring a firm wish to be a poet and writer, and he ultimately parted ways with John Allan.

Poe switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals, becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. His work forced him to move among several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. He married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836. In January 1845, Poe published his poem “The Raven” to instant success, but Virginia died of tuberculosis two years after its publication.

Poe planned for years to produce his own journal The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), but before it could be produced, he died in Baltimore on October 7, 1849, at age 40. The cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, “brain congestion”, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other causes. (Source: Wikipedia)

In just five stories published between 1841 and 1845, Edgar Allan Poe laid down most of the ground rules of detective fiction. In the three tales featuring chevalier C. Auguste Dupin (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, and “The Purloined Letter”) he created the Great Detective, not to mention the locked-room mystery, the notion of armchair detection and the secret-service story; “The Gold Bug” revolved around the use of cyphers; “Thou Art the Man” made use of false clues and the least likely suspect; and “The Oblong Box” which, as Xavier Lechard pointed out to me “is much less frequently anthologized and thus more obscure than the other five.” “It doesn’t have a detective but it is a mystery nevertheless, complete with a puzzle, several clues and a solution that while obvious today must have been a knockout at the time”. The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the “Edgars.”

Poe’s Detective Bibliography:  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841); The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” – A sequel to “The Murders In The Rue Morgue” (1842-43); “The Gold-Bug” (1843); “The Purloined Letter” (1844-45); “Thou Art the Man” (1844); and “The Oblong Box” (1844).

“Historians of the detective story are divided between those who say that there could be no detective stories until organized police and detective forces existed, and those who find examples of rational deduction in sources as various as the Bible and Voltaire, and suggest that these were early puzzles in detection. For the first group the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, for the second its roots are in the beginning of recorded history.” (Bloody Murder by Julian Symons. Published with revisions in Penguin Books, 1974).

5812

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jacket)

Poe’s mysteries include not only “The Gold-Bug” and the three Dupin tales, but also, “Thou Art The Man” and “The Oblong Box”. In addition, both “The Spectacles” (1844), and “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” share much of the form of mystery tales, with surprise solutions hinted at through clues in the stories, and many scenes and incidents having two meanings, one surface, one hidden and revealed at the end, even though neither has a detective or an explicit puzzle to solve. “Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” could be a formal model for Melville’s mystery tale “Benito Cereno”, although I know of no explicit evidence that Melville actually read Poe’s tale.

Most of Poe’s mystery stories were written during a relatively short period, 1841 – 1844. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) is the most important of Poe’s mystery works. It is the first, and the one that set the form of not only Poe’s other stories, but of all subsequent mystery fiction.

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” seems like a direct ancestor of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales. The relationship of Holmes and Watson seems similar to that of Dupin and the narrator. They meet and move in with each other, just as in A Study in Scarlet. And the narrator deeply admires Dupin, just like Watson and Holmes. The storytelling style also seems close to Doyle. The way in which Dupin announces he has a visitor coming, whom they must capture to solve the mystery, is very close to Doyle’s climaxes. The emphasis on Dupin’s intellect, and the use of reasoning and deduction to solve the mystery, anticipate both Doyle and detective fiction as a whole. Dupin’s explanations of how he solved the case seem very similar to those of Holmes. (Source: Edgar Allan Poe by Michael E. Grost).

Further reading: Poestories.com and The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore

My Book Notes: The Oblong Box (1844), a short story by Edgar Allan Poe

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

My edition: Edgar Allan Poe: The Complete Tales and Poems. Book House Publishing, 2016. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 7574 KB. Print Length: 390 pages. ASIN: B01IGCB1HE.

27031468The Oblong Box” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It appears that there is some controversy about when it was first published. Some sources mention the 28 August 1844 issue of the Dollar Newspaper in Philadelphia, but it seems it was a reprint. Actually the Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book issue, despite the later cover date – September 1844, would’ve been issued first. The unnamed narrator of The Oblong Box, while on a sea journey from Charleston, S. C., to New York City, aboard the packet-ship Independence, becomes unusually curious about an oblong pine box that is kept in the state room of an old fellow student at C– University, Cornelius Wyatt . . .

My Take: I first have to thank my friend and fellow blogger Xavier Lechard (At the Villa Rose) who, in a comment to my last blog post, tells me: “There is actually a sixth tale of ratiocination, The Oblong Box, which is much less frequently anthologized and thus more obscure than the other five. I myself have discovered it only this year despite being a Poe fan since my teenage years. It doesn’t have a detective but it is a mystery nevertheless, complete with a puzzle, several clues and a solution that while obvious today must have been a knockout at the time. It is for my money Poe’s best and most rewarding effort in the genre and certainly the most palatable to a modern audience.” And, without thinking twice, I rushed to read it.

As Xavier rightly states “The Oblong Box” is not properly the story of a crime as Poe told it. Nonetheless the plot is based in part on the murder of the printer Samuel Adams by John C. Colt— which succeeded the death of Mary Rogers as the leading sensational topic for the American press.

I have enjoyed it very much and, more importantly, I have started to develop an interest for Poe. For this reason, I look forward to reading him more in a not so distant future. Stay tuned.

I couldn’t resist myself the temptation of copying the narration of the shipwreck here:

We had been at sea seven days, and were now off Cape Hatteras, when there came a tremendously heavy blow from the southwest. We were, in a measure, prepared for it, however, as the weather had been holding out threats for some time. Every thing was made snug, alow and aloft; and as the wind steadily freshened, we lay to, at length, under spanker and foretopsail, both double-reefed.

In this trim we rode safely enough for forty-eight hours–the ship proving herself an excellent sea-boat in many respects, and shipping no water of any consequence. At the end of this period, however, the gale had freshened into a hurricane, and our after– sail split into ribbons, bringing us so much in the trough of the water that we shipped several prodigious seas, one immediately after the other. By this accident we lost three men overboard with the caboose, and nearly the whole of the larboard bulwarks. Scarcely had we recovered our senses, before the foretopsail went into shreds, when we got up a storm staysail and with this did pretty well for some hours, the ship heading the sea much more steadily than before.

The gale still held on, however, and we saw no signs of its abating. The rigging was found to be ill-fitted, and greatly strained; and on the third day of the blow, about five in the afternoon, our mizzen-mast, in a heavy lurch to windward, went by the board. For an hour or more, we tried in vain to get rid of it, on account of the prodigious rolling of the ship; and, before we had succeeded, the carpenter came aft and announced four feet of water in the hold. To add to our dilemma, we found the pumps choked and nearly useless.

All was now confusion and despair–but an effort was made to lighten the ship by throwing overboard as much of her cargo as could be reached, and by cutting away the two masts that remained. This we at last accomplished–but we were still unable to do any thing at the pumps; and, in the meantime, the leak gained on us very fast.

At sundown, the gale had sensibly diminished in violence, and as the sea went down with it, we still entertained faint hopes of saving ourselves in the boats. At eight P. M., the clouds broke away to windward, and we had the advantage of a full moon–a piece of good fortune which served wonderfully to cheer our drooping spirits.

After incredible labor we succeeded, at length, in getting the longboat over the side without material accident, and into this we crowded the whole of the crew and most of the passengers. This party made off immediately, and, after undergoing much suffering, finally arrived, in safety, at Ocracoke Inlet, on the third day after the wreck.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was one of the most original writers in the history of American letters, a genius who was tragically misunderstood in his lifetime. He was a seminal figure in the development of science fiction and the detective story, and exerted a great influence on Dostoyevsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and Charles Baudelaire, who championed him long before Poe was appreciated in his own country. Baudelaire’s enthusiasm brought Poe a wide audience in Europe, and his writing came to have enormous importance for modern French literature. (Source: Fantastic Fiction). The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the “Edgars.”

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore

“La caja oblonga” de Edgar Allan Poe

“La caja oblonga” es un relato breve de Edgar Allan Poe, publicado por primera vez el 28 de agosto de 1844, en el Dollar Newspaper de Philadelphia. El narrador anónimo de “La caja oblonga, durante una travesía marítima desde Charleston, SC, a la ciudad de Nueva York, a bordo del paquebote Independence, se vuelve inusitadamente curioso sobre una caja de pino oblonga que se guarda en el camarote de un antiguo compañero de estudios en la Universidad de C–, Cornelius Wyatt . . .

Mi opinión: Primero tengo que agradecer a mi amigo y compañero bloguero Xavier Lechard (At the Villa Rose) quien, en un comentario a la última publicación de mi blog, me dice: “En realidad hay un sexto relato de raciocinio, “La caja oblonga”, que es con mucho menos frecuencia comentado y, por tanto, más oscuro que los otros cinco. Yo mismo lo descubrí solo este año a pesar de ser un fanático de Poe desde mi adolescencia. No tiene detective alguno sin embargo es un misterio, con un enigma, varias pistas y una solución que, aunque obvia hoy, debe haber sido sensacional en su momento. Es para mi el mejor y más gratificante esfuerzo de Poe en el género y ciertamente el más aceptable para una audiencia moderna.” Y, sin pensarlo dos veces, me apresuré a leerlo.

Como Xavier afirma correctamente “La caja oblonga” no es propiamente, como Poe lo contó, la historia de un crimen. No obstante, la trama se basa en parte en el asesinato del impresor Samuel Adams por John C. Colt, que reemplazó a la muerte de Mary Rogers como el principal tema sensacionalista en la prensa estadounidense.

Lo he disfrutado mucho y, lo que es más importante, he comenzado a desarrollar un interés por Poe. Por esta razón, espero leerlo más en un futuro no muy lejano. Manténganse al tanto.

No pude resistirme a la tentación de copiar la narración del naufragio aquí:

Llevábamos siete días en el mar y habíamos pasado ya el cabo Hatteras, cuando nos asaltó un fortísimo viento del sudoeste. Como el tiempo se había mostrado amenazante, no nos tomó desprevenidos. Todo a bordo estaba bien aparejado y, cuando el viento se hizo más intenso, nos dejamos llevar con dos rizos de la mesana cangreja y el trinquete.

Con este velamen navegamos sin mayor peligro durante cuarenta y ocho horas, ya que el barco resultó ser muy marino y no hacía agua. Pero, al cumplirse este tiempo, el viento se transformó en huracán y la mesana cangreja se hizo pedazos, con lo cual quedamos de tal modo a merced de los elementos que de inmediato nos barrieron varias olas enormes, en rápida sucesión. Este accidente nos hizo perder tres hombres, aparte de quedar destrozadas las amuradas de babor y la cocina. Apenas habíamos recobrado algo de calma cuando el trinquete voló en jirones, lo que nos obligó a izar una vela de estay, pudiendo así resistir algunas horas, pues el barco capeaba el temporal con mayor estabilidad que antes.

Pero el huracán mantenía toda su fuerza, sin dar señales de amainar. Pronto se vio que la enjarciadura estaba en mal estado, soportando una excesiva tensión; al tercer día de la tempestad, a las cinco de la tarde, un terrible bandazo a barlovento mandó por la borda nuestro palo de mesana. Durante más de una hora luchamos por terminar de desprenderlo del buque, a causa del terrible rolido; antes de lograrlo, el carpintero subió a anunciarnos que había cuatro pies de agua en la sentina. Para colmo de males descubrimos que las bombas estaban atascadas y que apenas servían.

Todo era ahora confusión y angustia, pero continuamos luchando para aligerar el buque, tirando por la borda la mayor parte del cargamento y cortando los dos mástiles que quedaban. Todo esto se llevó a cabo, pero las bombas seguían inutilizables y la vía de agua continuaba inundando la cala.

A la puesta del sol el huracán había amainado sensiblemente y, como el mar se calmara, abrigábamos todavía esperanzas de salvarnos en los botes. A las ocho de la noche las nubes se abrieron a barlovento y tuvimos la ventaja de que nos iluminara la luna llena, lo cual devolvió el ánimo a nuestros abatidos espíritus.

Después de una increíble labor pudimos por fin botar al agua la chalupa y embarcamos en ella a la totalidad de la tripulación y a la mayor parte de los pasajeros. Alejóse la chalupa y, al cabo de muchísimos sufrimientos, llegó finalmente sana y salva a Ocracoke Inlet, tres días después del naufragio.  (Traducción de Julio Cortázar)

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) fue uno de los escritores más originales en la historia de las letras estadounidenses, un genio que fue trágicamente incomprendido en su vida. Fue una figura fundamental en el desarrollo de la ciencia ficción y de la novela policiaca, y ejerció una gran influencia en Dostoievsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne y Charles Baudelaire, que lo defendieron mucho antes de que Poe fuera apreciado en su propio país. El entusiasmo de Baudelaire le reportó a Poe numeroso público en Europa, y sus escritos llegaron a tener una enorme importancia en la literatura francesa moderna. (Fuente: Fantastic Fiction) Los premios que otorga la Asociación de Escritores de Misterio de Estados Unidos (Mystery Writers of America, MWA), por los méritos asumidos en distintas categorías: mejor novela, mejor ópera prima, mejor autor del año, etcétera, llevan el nombre de Premio Edgar, en su memoria.

Por cierto si tienen ustedes ocasión no se pierdan la magnífica traducción al castellano que hizo Julio Cortazar de Cuentos de Edgar Allan Poe publicada en 1956 por Ediciones de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, en colaboración con la Revista de Occidente, con el título de Obras en Prosa. Cuentos de Edgar Allan Poe. La actual edición de Alianza Editorial ha sido revisada y corregida por el traductor. Primera edición en “El libro de bolsillo”, 1970. Merece la pena.

My Book Notes: The Murders In The Rue Morgue And Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Orion, Crime Masterworks, 2002. Book Format: Paperback. 176 pages. ISBN: 9780752847702

5ee79472f8655935931654b5977444341587343Book Description: In just five stories published between 1841 and 1845, Edgar Allan Poe laid down most of the ground rules of detective fiction. In the three tales featuring chevalier C. Auguste Dupin (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, and “The Purloined Letter”) he created the Great Detective, not to mention the locked-room mystery, the notion of armchair detection and the secret-service story; “The Gold Bug” revolved around the use of cyphers; and “Thou Art the Man” made use of false clues and the least likely suspect.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a short story published in Graham’s Magazine in 1841. It has been described as the first modern detective story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination”. The story, told by an unnamed narrator, revolves around the mystery of the brutal murder of two women. An old woman Mrs. L’Espanaye, and her daughter mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye, living alone in an old house in the Rue Morgue, were killed one day in the middle of the night. The neighbours had woke up upon hearing the cries of terror that were coming from the house. When no one answered their calls, they forced the door open and rushed in. Two voices seemed to come from above. The group of neighbours looked into one by one all the rooms but they found nothing until reaching the fourth floor. There they run into a door that was securely closed, with the key inside. They forced the door and inside they encountered the macabre scene of the two women murdered, but there was no one else. Some witnesses who claimed to have listen two male voices –one low and soft and the other one hard, did not agree in the language of the latter one. Though it was certainly not French, like the first voice.

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt”, often subtitled “A Sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, is a short story that was first published in Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion in three instalments, November and December 1842 and February 1843. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination”. This is the first murder mystery based on the details of a real crime. C. Auguste Dupin and his assistant, the unnamed narrator, undertake the unsolved murder of Marie Rogêt in Paris. The body of Rogêt, a perfume shop employee, is found in the Seine, and the press takes a keen interest in the mystery. Dupin uses the newspaper cuttings to get into the mind of the murderer.

The Purloined Letter” is the third of Poe’s  three detective stories featuring the fictional C. Auguste Dupin. It first appeared in the literary annual The Gift for 1845 (1844) and was soon reprinted in numerous journals and newspapers. The unnamed narrator is discussing with the famous Parisian amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin some of his most celebrated cases when they are joined by the Prefect of the Police, a man known as G—. The Prefect has a case he would like to discuss with Dupin. A letter has been stolen from the boudoir of an unnamed woman by the unscrupulous Minister D—. It is said to contain compromising information. D— was in the room, saw the letter, and switched it for a letter of no importance. Thus he will be able to use the content of the letter, now in his possession, to master to his whim the victim’s will.

The Gold-Bug” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in 1843. The plot follows William Legrand, who was bitten by a gold-coloured bug. His servant Jupiter fears that Legrand is going insane and goes to Legrand’s friend, an unnamed narrator, who agrees to visit his old friend. Legrand pulls the other two into an adventure after deciphering a secret message that will lead to a buried treasure. The story, set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, is often compared with Poe’s “tales of ratiocination” as an early form of detective fiction. Poe submitted “The Gold-Bug” as an entry to a writing contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. His story won the grand prize and was published in three instalments, beginning in June 1843. The prize also included $100, probably the largest single sum that Poe received for any of his works. “The Gold-Bug” was an instant success and was the most popular and most widely read of Poe’s works during his lifetime. It also helped popularize cryptograms and secret writing.

Thou Art the Man”, originally titled “Thou Art the Man!”, is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1844. It is an early experiment in detective fiction, like “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, though it is generally considered an inferior story. The plot involves a man wrongfully accused of murdering his uncle Barnabas Shuttleworthy, whose corpse is missing. An unnamed narrator finds the body and draws up quite a complex plan to unmask the culprit.

My take: It’s curious, to say the least, to observe how one reading leads us to another one. In this case, although I’ve read “The Murders In the Rue Morgue” before –see my review here, I arrived at this book after reading El cuento policial (The detective story), a lecture given by Jorge Luis Borges at the University of Belgrano in Argentina on 16 June 1978 where he said: 

“Todo eso ya está en ese primer relato policial que escribió Poe, sin saber que inauguraba un género, llamado “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (Los crímenes de la calle Morgue). Poe no quería que el género policial fuera un género realista, quería que fuera un género intelectual, un género fantástico si ustedes quieren, pero un género fantástico de la inteligencia, no de la imaginación solamente; de ambas cosas desde luego, pero sobre todo de la inteligencia. “

“All that is already in that first detective story that Poe wrote, without knowing that he was inaugurating a genre, called “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Poe didn’t want the detective genre to be a realistic genre, he wanted it to be an intellectual genre, a fantastic genre if you want, but a fantastic genre of intelligence, not just imagination; of both things of course, but especially intelligence.” (My free translation)

And that encouraged me to read what Borges called los cinco ejemplos que Poe nos dejó (The five examples Poe left us). 

However, the question of whether the detective story begins with Poe has no unanimous support, as Julian Symons points out: 

“Historians of the detective story are divided between those who say that there could be no detective stories until organized police and detective forces existed, and those who find examples of rational deduction in sources as various as the Bible and Voltaire, and suggest that these were early puzzles in detection. For the first group the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, for the second its roots are in the beginning of recorded history.” (Bloody Murder).

On this occasion, I tend to agree with Symons when he elaborates “that those who search for fragments of detection in the Bible and Herodotus are looking only for puzzles. The puzzle is vital to the detective story but it is not a detective story in itself, and its place in crime literature generally is comparatively small.”

Once settled this extreme, I’ve no problem in accepting Poe as the initiator of a new genre called today detective fiction. We may find other forerunners, but none other like Poe devoted himself also to reflect upon the skills needed to solve crimes or mysteries whose resolution appears to be impossible. Not to mention that, with C. Auguste Dupin character, Poe set the pattern of the great detectives (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot) that came next.

My favourite, of the five short stories, is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, closely followed by “The Purloined Letter”. “The Gold-Bug” is worth reading. “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt”, extends much in boring explanations in my view. And “Thou Art the Man” is, perhaps, the weakest of the lot. But they are a brief read and, in view of what they represent, I felt the need to read them, and I don’t regret about it.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was one of the most original writers in the history of American letters, a genius who was tragically misunderstood in his lifetime. He was a seminal figure in the development of science fiction and the detective story, and exerted a great influence on Dostoyevsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and Charles Baudelaire, who championed him long before Poe was appreciated in his own country. Baudelaire’s enthusiasm brought Poe a wide audience in Europe, and his writing came to have enormous importance for modern French literature. (Source: Fantastic Fiction). The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the “Edgars.”

The Murders in the Rue Morgue has been reviewed at Past Offences, and Mysteries Ahoy!, among others.

Many of Poe’s works are available from Project Gutenberg

Read more about Poe biography at gadetection.

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore 

Los crímenes de la calle Morgue y otras historias de Edgar Allan Poe

Descripción del libro: En tan solo cinco historias publicadas entre 1841 y 1845, Edgar Allan Poe sentó la mayoría de las bases del relato policial. En los tres cuentos protagonizados por el caballero C. Auguste Dupin (“Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, “El misterio de Marie Rogêt” y “La carta robada”) creó al prototipo del Gran Detective, sin mencionar el misterio del cuarto cerrado, el concepto del investigador de salón y el cuento del servicio secreto; “El escarabajo de oro” gira en torno al uso de mensajes codificados; y “Tú eres el hombre” hace uso de pistas falsas y del sospechoso menos probable.

Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, también conocido como “Los asesinatos de la calle Morgue” o “Los asesinatos de la rue Morgue”, es un relato breve publicado en Graham’s Magazine en 1841. Se trata del primer relato policial moderno. Poe se refirió a él como uno de sus “cuentos de raciocinio”. El relato, contado por un narrador anónimo, gira en torno al misterio del brutal asesinato de dos mujeres. Una anciana, madame L’Espanaye, y su hija mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye, que vivían solas en una casa antigua en la calle Morgue, fueron asesinadas un día a mitad de la noche. Los vecinos se habían despertado al escuchar los gritos de terror que venían de la casa. Cuando nadie respondió a sus llamadas, forzaron la puerta para abrirla y entraron rápidamente. Dos voces parecían provenir de arriba. El grupo de vecinos examinó una a una todas las habitaciones, pero no encontraron nada hasta llegar al cuarto piso. Allí se tropiezan con una puerta que estaba firmemente cerrada, con la llave por dentro. Forzaron la puerta y en el interior se encontraron con la escena macabra de las dos mujeres asesinadas, pero no había nadie más. Algunos testigos que afirmaron haber escuchado dos voces masculinas, una baja y suave y la otra dura, no estuvieron de acuerdo en el idioma de la última. Aunque ciertamente no era francés, como la primera voz.

El misterio de Marie Rogêt”, a menudo subitulado “Continuación de los crímenes de la calle Morgue” es un relato breve que se publicó por primera vez en Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion en tres entregas: noviembre y diciembre de 1842, y febrero de 1843. Poe se refirió a él como uno de sus “cuentos de raciocinio”. Este es el primer misterio policial basado en los detalles de un crimen real. El caballero C. Auguste Dupin y su asistente, el narrador anónimo, emprenden la investigación del asesinato no resuelto de Marie Rogêt en París. Rogêt, una empleada de una perfumería, ha sido encontrada en el Sena, y la prensa se interesa mucho por el misterio. Dupin utiliza los recortes de los periódico para penetrar en la mente del asesino.

La carta robada” es el tercero de los tres relatos policiales de Poe protagonizados por el personaje de ficción C. Auguste Dupin. Apareció por primera vez en la revista literaria The Gift de 1845 (1844) y pronto se reimprimió en numerosas revistas y periódicos. El narrador anónimo está discutiendo con el famoso detective aficionado parisino C. Auguste Dupin algunos de sus casos más famosos cuando se les une el Prefecto de la Policía, un hombre conocido como G—. El prefecto tiene un caso que le gustaría discutir con Dupin. El poco escrupuloso ministro D— ha robado una carta del gabinete de una mujer cuyo nombre permance oculto. Se dice que contiene información comprometedora. D— estaba en la habitación, vio la carta y la cambió por una carta sin importancia. Así podrá usar el contenido de la carta, ahora en su poder, para dominar a su antojo la voluntad de la víctima.

El escarabajo de oro” es un cuento de Edgar Allan Poe publicado en 1843. La trama sigue a William Legrand, quien fue mordido por un insecto de color dorado. Su criado Júpiter teme que Legrand se esté volviendo loco y acude al amigo de Legrand, un narrador anónimo, que acepta visitar a su viejo amigo. Legrand consigue implicar a los otros dos en una aventura, después de descifrar un mensaje secreto, que les conducirá hasta un tesoro oculto. La historia, ambientada en la isla de Sullivan, Carolina del Sur, a menudo se compara con los “cuentos de raciocinio” de Poe por ser una forma incipiente de investigación policial. Poe presentó “El escarabajo de oro” a un concurso de relatos cortos convocado por el Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. Su relato ganó el primer premio y se publicó en tres entregas, comenzando en junio de 1843. El galardón incluía 100 dólares de premio, probablemente la suma más grande que Poe recibió jamás por cualquiera de sus obras. “El escarabajo de oro” tuvo un éxito inmediato y fue la obra más popular y más leída en vida de Poe. También ayudó a popularizar los criptogramas y los escritos secretos.

Tú eres el hombre” es un cuento de Edgar Allan Poe, publicado por primera vez en 1844. Es un experimento prematuro de novela policiaca, como “Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, aunque generalmente se considera un relato inferior. La trama implica a un hombre acusado injustamente de asesinar a su tío Barnabas Shuttleworthy, cuyo cadáver ha desaparecido. Un narrador anónimo encuentra el cuerpoy elabora un plan bastante complejo para desenmascarar al culpable.

Mi opinión: Resulta curioso, por decirlo de alguna manera, observar cómo una lectura nos lleva a otra. En este caso, aunque había leido ya “Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, vea mi reseña aquí, llegué a este libro después de leer “El cuento policial”, una conferencia dada por Jorge Luis Borges en la Universidad de Belgrano en Argentina el 16 de junio de 1978 donde dijo:

“Todo eso ya está en ese primer relato policial que escribió Poe, sin saber que inauguraba un género, llamado “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (Los crímenes de la calle Morgue). Poe no quería que el género policial fuera un género realista, quería que fuera un género intelectual, un género fantástico si ustedes quieren, pero un género fantástico de la inteligencia, no de la imaginación solamente; de ambas cosas desde luego, pero sobre todo de la inteligencia.”

Y eso me animó a leer lo que Borges llamó los cinco ejemplos que Poe nos dejó.

Sin embargo, la pregunta de si la historia policial comienza con Poe no tiene un apoyo unánime, como señala Julian Symons:

“Historians of the detective story are divided between those who say that there could be no detective stories until organized police and detective forces existed, and those who find examples of rational deduction in sources as various as the Bible and Voltaire, and suggest that these were early puzzles in detection. For the first group the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, for the second its roots are in the beginning of recorded history.” (Bloody Murder).

“Los historiadores de la novela policial se dividen entre aquellos que dicen que no podría haber historias policiacas hasta que existieran fuerzas policiales e investigadores organizados, y aquellos que encuentran ejemplos de deducciones racionales en fuentes tan diversas como la Biblia y Voltaire, y sugieren que estos fueron los primeros enigmas en la investigación. Para el primer grupo, la historia policiaca comienza en Edgar Allan Poe, y para el segundo, sus raíces se encuentran en los comienzos de la historia escrita”. (Mi traducción libre)

En esta ocasión, tiendo a estar de acuerdo con Symons cuando explica “that those who search for fragments of detection in the Bible and Herodotus are looking only for puzzles. The puzzle is vital to the detective story but it is not a detective story in itself, and its place in crime literature generally is comparatively small.” (que aquellos que buscan fragmentos de investigación en la Biblia y en Heródoto solo buscan enigmas. El enigma es esencial para la historia policiaca pero no es una historia policiaca en sí misma, y su lugar en la literatura criminal por lo general es relativamente reducido).

Una vez aclarado este extremo, no tengo ningún problema en aceptar a Poe como el introductor de un nuevo género llamado hoy novela policiaca. Podemos encontrar otros precursores, pero ninguno como Poe se dedicó también a reflexionar sobre las competencias necesarias para resolver crímenes o misterios cuya resolución parece imposible. Sin mencionar que, con el personaje de C. Auguste Dupin, Poe marcó la pauta de los grandes detectives que vinieron después (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot).

Mi favorito, de los cinco relatos, es “Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, seguido de cerca por “La carta robada”. Vale la pena leer “El escarabajo de oro”. “El misterio de Marie Rogêt”, se extiende mucho en explicaciones aburridas en mi opinión. Y “Tú eres el hombre” es, quizás, el más flojo de todos. Pero son una lectura breve y, en vista de lo que representan, sentí la necesidad de leerlos, y no me arrepiento de ello.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) fue uno de los escritores más originales en la historia de las letras estadounidenses, un genio que fue trágicamente incomprendido en su vida. Fue una figura fundamental en el desarrollo de la ciencia ficción y de la novela policiaca, y ejerció una gran influencia en Dostoievsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne y Charles Baudelaire, que lo defendieron mucho antes de que Poe fuera apreciado en su propio país. El entusiasmo de Baudelaire le reportó a Poe numeroso público en Europa, y sus escritos llegaron a tener una enorme importancia en la literatura francesa moderna. (Fuente: Fantastic Fiction) Los premios que otorga la Asociación de Escritores de Misterio de Estados Unidos (Mystery Writers of America, MWA), por los méritos asumidos en distintas categorías: mejor novela, mejor ópera prima, mejor autor del año, etcétera, llevan el nombre de Premio Edgar, en su memoria.

Por cierto si tienen ustedes ocasión no se pierdan la magnífica traducción al castellano que hizo Julio Cortazar de los relatos de Edgar Allan Poe. Merece la pena.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

Published in Great Britain in 2002 by Orion Books. 40 pages. ISBN: 0-75284-770-8

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión española desplazarse por la pantalla hacia abajo

Poe’s tales of mystery and imagination laid the groundwork for a new genre in the history of literature, the detective story. In The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), the first of the three tales starring the fictitious C. Auguste Dupin, we find the prototype for many fictional detectives, including Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. The story is told in first person by an unnamed narrator and it is also considered the first locked-room mystery.

After a philosophical introduction about the mental features discoursed of as the analytical, the reader is introduced to C. Auguste Dupin by an unnamed narrator:

This young gentleman was of an excellent – indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a small remnant of his patrimony; and, upon de income arising from this, he managed, by means of a rigorous economy, to procure the necessaries of life, without troubling himself about its superfluities. Books, indeed, where his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are easily obtained.”

The story then revolves around the double murder of Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter in the Rue Morgue and how C. August Dupin finds an explanation and solves the mystery surrounding the case.

Given its historical significance, its length and its easy accessibility by means of  the Internet, this is a must read for every genre aficionado. If you have not read it yet, you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure you will enjoy the prose of one of the world’s best storytellers.

Edgar Allan Poe at Wikipedia.

This is my first book for the 2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 

Los Crímenes de la Calle Morgue por Edgar Allan Poe

Poe sentó las bases de un nuevo género en la historia de la literatura, la historia de detectives en Cuentos de misterio y de imaginación. En Los Crímenes de la Calle Morgue (1841), el primero de los tres cuentos protagonizada por C. Auguste Dupin, nos encontramos con el prototipo de muchos detectives de ficción, como Sherlock Holmes y Hércules Poirot. La historia está contada en primera persona por un narrador sin nombre y también está considerado como el primer misterio de cuarto cerrado.

Después de una introducción filosófica acerca de las características de la inteligencia que suelen calificarse de analíticas, C. Auguste Dupin es presentado al lector por un narrador sin nombre:

Este joven caballero procedía de una excelente  – de hecho de una ilustre familia, pero una serie de desdichadas circunstancias lo habían reducido a tal pobreza que la energía de su carácter sucumbió ante la desgracia, llevándolo a alejarse del mundo y a no preocuparse por recuperar su fortuna. Gracias a la cortesía de sus acreedores le quedó una pequeña parte del patrimonio, y la renta que le producía bastaba, mediante una rigurosa economía, para subvenir a sus necesidades, sin preocuparse de lo superfluo. Los libros constituían su único lujo, y en París éstos son fáciles de obtener.”

La historia gira alrededor del doble asesinato de la señora L’Espanaye y de su hija en la calle Morgue y cómo C. Auguste Dupin encuentra la explicación y resuelve el misterio que rodea al caso.

Por su importancia histórica, su extensión y su fácil accesibilidad a través de Internet, esta es una lectura obligada para todos los aficionado al género. Si no lo han leído, no se sentirán decepcionados. Estoy seguro de que podrán disfrutar de la prosa de uno de los mejores narradores del mundo.

Edgar Allan Poe en Wikipedia.