Bowled over by the originality and power of The Vorrh to take the reader into new and previously unimagined worlds, Matt Shaw discovers a cinematic approach to writing when he sits down for a film interview with the book’s author, the artist, Brian Catling
The Vorrh by B. Catling is the most wonderful and otherworldly novel I have read in many years. It is a book that - once entered into - will stay with you; it calls to be read to completion whenever it is put down, if it is possible to put down in the first place. It will reappear in your dreams and linger in the shadows. It will comfort and disturb, haunt and fascinate you
Like reading folklore, myth and a historical novel at the same time, this book blurs the line between truth and fiction, prose and the poetic, good and bad, rendering each label meaningless and irrelevant in its powerful ability to transmit its own breathtaking story.
As I read, I wonder where these ideas come from - this extraordinary ability to write with such originality and power. I needed to look into the man behind the work.
B. Catling is the chosen identity of Brian Catling. Brian is also a poet, an artist working as a sculptor, painter and performance artist. A film-maker, and a former professor of Fine Art at The Ruskin.
He explained to me that the writing comes to him fully formed as if he is watching a ‘mind movie’ - the words and narrative spilling out complete, as if authored by someone else with Brian as the conduit.
This cinematic approach to seeing and interpreting the world and reflecting it back, broken down and through the filter of one of the many disciplines he chooses to work within,
The Vorrh is perhaps the most successful work yet in fully realising Brian’s ability to transmit a story and set of ideas.
The book begins with the real life character of Raymond Roussell, the French poet and playwright, leading us into Chapter One where we meet the fictitious Bowman; and then on to Chapter Two and the Cyclops Ishmael, a creature from folklore but a folklore reinvented anew. Once our main cast has been introduced, we are then free to meet all manner of other characters, atmospheres and creatures.
The main location for this book which has the magical ability to transport the reader to another place completely - a feeling I first encountered reading Alan Garner and Roald Dahl at a young age - is the fictitious village of Essenwald, a European city transported to Africa which borders the magical, dangerous and mysterious Vorrh.
We travel through continents and aeons without any need to time travel, through the polarity of emotions and morality. As a teenager the books of John Wyndham, Michael Moorcock, the graphic novels of Alan Moore and fantasy worlds of Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson had a similar ability to transport me to other worlds. This though is no children’s book. It isn’t even a fantasy book in the traditional sense.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Speaking about The Vorrh,Terry Gilliam says: “Brian Catling is simply a genius. His writing is so extraordinary it hurts, it makes me realize how little imagination I have.” Terry is now planning to turn the Vorrh into a film or TV series so the life of The Vorrh is perhaps only just beginning.
Matt Shaw is a creative working with the Lush digital channels. An artist with a special interest in place in relation to imagination and creativity. Matt produces and presents films for Lush Player.
The Vorrh is the first of a trilogy. The second book, The Erstwhile is also available now. The final instalment titled The Cloven will be published this summer. Matt’s love of The Vorrh and Brian’s entire body of work led him into making a film about the artist and author.
‘Matter is a Relative matter with Brian Catling’ is available now on player.lush.com
The Vorrh can be ordered from here https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/248404/the-vorrh-by-b-catling/9781101873786/ and from all good bookshops