From Hell

Finished this in a week and a day more. One of my fastest books in a long time. Made me realize how much I have slowed down when it comes to reading. Its either slow books like Snow, or I tend to get busy with other things and spend less time reading. Sometimes makes me wonder if I really am an avid reader or someone pretending to be one. But then I ask such questions about everything else, like my profession, so you may ignore that safely and assume that I am one for the sake of this post.

Anyway, book itself is a graphic novel. And its in Black and White. Yes, just black and white like Calvin and Hobbes weekday ones. It relates the events connected to the Jack The Ripper murders which happened in 1888 in London. Considering that the murders have not been solved till date and have spawned off innumerable fictional stories (a form of fiction that is actually called Ripperology), this is another piece of fiction based around true facts. The person accused of the murder existed. The people in the story, all existed and were around the same place. But then the murders were committed by the man accused, that part is fiction. There are other fictional parts which are mentioned in the appendix.

The authors manage to tie up many things together. Freemasonry, the Monarchy’s worries with the French Revolution happening nearby, the miserable lives of the migrant underclass in London, the Prince and his vagrant ways, all these come together ending in the murder of 5 prostitutes in a gruesome manner. The narrative itself lacks any form of emotion. The characters look emotionless (they are drawn as having no emotions). Even a scene where a policeman gives his junior a piece of his mind in the harshest of tongues has no visible emotion and it’s up to you to conjure it up. And yes, that’s the way the authors intended it to be. Its just plain narration of how things happened ending the way it’s ended, again with no emotion. Like the author mentions in a very detailed pair of appendices (don’t skip them!), it was meant to be an analysis into the mind of a murderer, a window into the turn of the century and the rampant evil at that time, and how it shaped the society of the 20th Century. The closest that comes to mind is John Grisham’s ‘The Innocent Man’ which although not at all in the same league tries the detached narrative for the most part.

Have still not figured it out much. Am guessing I’ll need another read into it. But not for a while, not for another year or so. Maybe after that, I’ll have a go again and figure out things. There are far too many things there to be just understood which I couldn’t really grasp when reading and did not make sense. I guess its one of those you read and discuss. But I guess a better understanding of history and of English society those days might be needed and it just might be because I don’t identify so closely with them. The authors also keep it abstract and let you do the guessing. Like there is a scene of love-making in Austria which is a pretty sudden digression from the main thread, with the dialogues in German. I won’t break the surprise to you. Its there in the appendix.

I could just go and on as I think and write more about it. But I’ll just stop here. Try to get your hands on this one – it’s a really stunning piece of work. Its Alan Moore’s finest work apparently.

And a final word of advice: Skip the movie – it’s absolute trash.


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