Vathek (creation classics) by william beckford (2000-02-15) - Vathek - Wikipedia

Vathek capitalised on the eighteenth- (and early nineteenth-) century obsession with all things Oriental (see Orientalism ), which was inspired by Antoine Galland 's translation of The Arabian Nights (itself retranslated, into English, in 1708). Beckford was also influenced by similar works from the French writer Voltaire . His originality lay in combining the popular Oriental elements with the Gothic stylings of Horace Walpole 's The Castle of Otranto (1764). The result stands alongside Walpole's novel and Mary Shelley 's Frankenstein (1818) in the first rank of early Gothic fiction.

William Beckford wrote Vathek in French in 1782, when he was 21. He often stated that Vathek was written as an emotional response to "the events that happened at Fonthill at Christmas 1781", when he had prepared an elaborate Orientally-inspired entertainment at his lavish country estate with the assistance of renowned painter and set designer Philip James de Loutherbourg . [4] Beckford said that it took him only two to three days and the intervening nights to write the entire book.

Vathek was written during a time when part of European culture was influenced by Orientalism . It is an Arabian tale because of the oriental setting and characters and the depiction of oriental cultures, societies, and myth. Vathek is also a Gothic novel with its emphasis on the supernatural, ghosts, and spirits, as well as the terror it tries to induce in the reader.

The title character is inspired by al-Wathiq ( Arabic : الواثق ‎), son of al-Mu'tasim , an Abbasid caliph who reigned in 842–847 (227–232 AH in the Islamic calendar ) who had a great thirst for knowledge and became a great patron to scholars and artists. During his reign, a number of revolts broke out. He took an active role in quelling them. He died of fever on 10 August 847.

The novel chronicles the fall from power of the Caliph Vathek, 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. To better study astronomy, he builds an observation tower with 11,000 steps.

Sintra's scenic old town, Sintra Vila, is centered on the Palácio Nacional de Sintra . The cobbled square in front of the palace is lined with shops, cafés, and colorful townhouses and is a good place to begin exploring. Those with stout legs will enjoy the climb to the castle ; alternatively, sightseers can take a bus, which also stops at Palácio da Pena . A vehicle is the best way to take in other tourist attractions.

The highlight of the upper levels is undoubtedly the astonishing Sala dos Brasões . This glittering hall is banded by superb azulejo tile work, while the domed ceiling is embellished with the coats of arms ( brasões ) of 72 noble Portuguese families. And what about those chimneys? They can be admired as part of a tapered roof in the palace kitchens, along with a display of polished copper utensils once used to prepare royal banquets.

Another star draw is the 16th-century chapel and its ornate altarpiece , the only surviving part of the monastery that once occupied the site before the palace was built. Outside, youngsters can indulge in games of hide and seek along the sinewy walls, while adults can marvel at the views across the Sintra hills and the distant Atlantic coastline.

Located in the same building that used to house the Toy Museum, this new permanent exhibition spotlights the role news , media, and communication plays in the modern world, and is fast becoming a highly valued tourist attraction. Presented in a physical, hands-on manner as well as conveyed virtually, it allows visitors to interact with radio and television presentations broadcasting media coverage of episodes in recent history. Revisiting the scene affords a re-evaluation of what took place and asks whether the story was told impartially and without bias.

The garden's English-style dimensions are deliberate. Wealthy dandy William Beckford, who penned the Gothic novel Vathek , rented the estate from 1793 to 1799 and added the water features you see today. Later, another Englishman, Sir Francis Cook, imported the strange-sounding trees, added a sweeping lawn, and built the whimsical Moorish-style palace that peers over the green baize grass. Admission to the palace is included in the estate's entrance fee, and while scant in furnishings, the interior does feature fine examples of filigree plasterwork.