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Level, Maurice (1875 - 1926)

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Maurice Level (August 29, 1875 - April 15, 1926), was a French writer of fiction and drama who specialized in short stories of the macabre which were regularly printed in the columns of Paris newspapers and sometimes staged by le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, the repertory company in the Pigalle district devoted to melodramatic productions which highlighted blood and gore. Level's short stories may be weak in characterization and motivation, but they are strong on obsession and violence. Their surprise endings are reminiscent of the stories of Guy de Maupassant. As editor John Robert Colombo noted in Stories of Fear and Fascination (2007), Battered Silicon Dispatch Box French critics see Level as the heir of the Symbolist writer Villiers de l'Isle-Adam; British critics, as the successor of Edgar Allan Poe; American critics, as the contemporary of H. P. Lovecraft. Of this fiction, Lovecraft himself observed in Supernatural Horror in Literature (1945), "This type, however, is less a part of the weird tradition than a class peculiar to itself--the so-called conte cruel, in which the wrenching of the emotions is accomplished through dramatic tantalizations, frustrations, and gruesome physical horrors." Critic Philippe Gontier wrote, "We can only admire, now almost one hundred years later, the great artistry with which Maurice Level fabricated his plots, with what care he fashioned all the details of their unfolding and how with a master's hand he managed the building of suspense." Level's stories, with their gratuitous acts and mindless brutality, may be seen as precursors of "thriller" fiction and "slasher" films....

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Les Portes de l'Enfer

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