Conte cruel


The conte cruel is, as The A to Z of Fantasy Literature by Brian Stableford states, a "short-story genre that takes its name from an 1883 collection by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam", although previous examples had been provided by such writers as Edgar Allan Poe. Some critics use the label to refer only to non-supernatural horror stories, especially those that have nasty climactic twists, but it is applicable to any story whose conclusion exploits the cruel aspects of the 'irony of fate.'[1] The collection from which the short-story genre of the conte cruel takes its name is Contes cruels (1883, tr. Sardonic Tales, 1927) by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. Also taking its name from this collection is Contes cruels ("Cruel Tales"), a two-volume set of about 150 tales and short stories by the 19th-century French writer Octave Mirbeau, collected and edited by Pierre Michel and Jean-François Nivet and published in two volumes in 1990 by Librairie Séguier.

Some noted writers in the conte cruel genre are Charles Birkin, Maurice Level, Patricia Highsmith[2] and Roald Dahl, the latter of whom originated Tales of the Unexpected. H. P. Lovecraft observed of Level's fiction in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927): "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".[3]

Brian M. Stableford has observed that, by the 1980s, the conte cruel was the standard narrative form of soft science fiction,[4] in particular the works of Thomas M. Disch and John Sladek.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Brian Stableford (13 August 2009). The A to Z of Fantasy Literature. Scarecrow Press. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-0-8108-6345-3.
  2. ^ François Riviere, "Patricia Highsmith a rejoint les eaux profondes" Libération, 6 February 1995. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  3. ^ Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1964). At the Mountains of Madness. pp. 188–. ISBN 978-9949-9424-4-2.
  4. ^ a b Brian M. Stableford (1 January 2004). Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Literature. Scarecrow Press. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-0-8108-4938-9.