I have nothing but good things to say about Ajna Bound, the esoteric publishing arm of media company Ajna Offensive. Issuing carefully selected titles in the realms of the occult, underground music, and alternative art, they create keepsake books that are like catnip to folks like me. Their recent publication of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ The Hearts of KingsI take a look at this new English translation over at Heathen Harvest, a short conte cruel by the German master of the weird, is another lovely addition to their catalog:
The work of German author Hanns Heinz Ewers depicts the grotesque, erotic, and philosophical in elegant language, often dosed with poisonous wit. Best known for his novel Alraune, the decadent and blackly humorous tale of an artificially birthed femme fatale, Ewers’s Romanticism would lead him to join the most deadly cult of German exceptionalism, the Nazi Party. This three-year-long affiliation would ultimately find the freethinking bisexual artist ousted from the group in 1934 with virtually all of his works banned, but this did not occur until after he had penned the propagandistic novel Riders in the German Night and had written a screenplay and biography of Nazi martyr Horst Wessel. As a result of these political beliefs, many scholars of the fantastique have been hesitant to champion Ewers’s horror writing. He is a complex figure; the same man who joined the Nazi Party also had a fascination with occult theory that led him to develop the concept of a “cultural nation” that transcended geographical boundaries by spiritually uniting creative thinkers. Recent years have seen a reassessment of Ewers’s writing in the English-speaking world. Through independent publishing services, translators have made the author’s short stories, novels, and essays available to adventurous readers. One of the most jewel-like of these new editions is Ajna Bound’s 2015 hardbound volume of Ewers’s 1922 short story The Hearts of Kings, published alongside the etchings by Stefan Eggeler that accompanied the text in its original printing.
A few months back, I reviewed Death in Rome’s Hitparade, a delightful collection of pop songs covered in neofolk style, for Black Ivory Tower. The mysterious gentlemen behind the band appreciated the article, and in an extraordinarily generous move, gave me the opportunity to select their next cover song. I chose “Toxic” by Britney Spears, imagining the potential for some sort of Baudelairian comment on excess, but Death in Rome went in a more nihilistic direction altogether. The resulting track is–dare I say it–a dark dancefloor banger. The YouTube video features my cover illustration of Britney serving champagne to nihilist philosopher Emil Cioran. Enjoy!