H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Colour Out of Space’ ¶ 65


…What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories. This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deem too vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space— a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.

~ by ohkrapp on January 6, 2009.

3 Responses to “H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Colour Out of Space’ ¶ 65”

  1. apologies for the lack of blogging lately. i’ve been back in tulsa for a few weeks and i try to take advantage of the little time i spend here. i head back to france tomorrow and have a week where i have many important obligations — which of course means intense blogging.

    i have to be at the airport in three hours and should be sleeping, but i was browsing the vast krapp tulsa archives and found my cherished library of american edition of lovecraft’s tales. i guess that if there is any author whose ‘oeuvre’ i know the most intimately, it is either lovecraft, salinger or vonnegut, having read nearly almost all of each author’s published works (although my familiarity with the latter two is fading; i haven’t read anything from either author since i was 18!.. and as much as they moved me at the time, i’d probably trade them out for henry james or balzac now. oh youth.)

    * * *

    not all lovecraft is good. of the 22 tales in the 800+ page edition, i can only recommend 6 or 7 wholeheartedly. but when lovecraft is on — if you can learn to endure the asceticism, pretense/acute anglophilia, racism and utter sexlessness of his works — he is supreme. i was delighted a few months ago when chris and i were playing one of our silly ‘Top XX Y’s of the ZZZZ’s’ games and lovecraft appeared on both of our lists for the top 5 greatest american authors! (although poe might be more deserving; i wouldn’t know. ok, it’s late and i’ll start rambling if i’m not careful…)

    this passage: i’m not a very outwardly emotional person. as i told sebastian the last time we spoke, i lead a ‘very rich internal life’ but externally i think my behavior can often be construed as detached, stoic, or at least lacking in empathy. this is all to vouch for the rarity and import (for me) of the emotion i felt when i first read one of the above sentenecs. i literally had to close the book and walk around the room. the profundity of the idea had an effect much like the one described: my brain was stunned.

    first, the writing is excellent; ‘no fruit of such worlds and suns as shine on.. telescopes’ could pass for early shakespeare, methinks.. i’m also a grand fan of ‘this was no breath from the skies [!] whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure [get ready!] or deem too vast to measure..’

    but the deep poetry here, the line that must be said aloud and often:

    ‘It was just a colour out of space.’ …

    ‘It was just a colour out of space.’

    excerpted, it loses much of its power. you have to understand the bizarre circumstances that have transpired up to this penultimate paragraph. an unknown entity has visited a remote and humble farmhouse and caused horrible things to happen to its inhabitants. every lovecraft story i can think of ends with some partially unexplained mystery. the climax may be described in detail (cthulhu emerging from its tomb, etc.) but there remains some unfathomable aspect.. this passage marks both lovecraft’s most enigmatic AND most lucid account.

    what was that thing? we hear of its appearance, of its behavior and effects. we can guess endlessly at its origin and intention (cf. hitchcock’s the birds), but there’s no need: lovecraft tells us everything we need to know and indeed all that there is to know:

    ‘It was just a colour out of space..’

    a typical lovecraft story features a protagonist or his colleague made privy to some arcane presence, the knowledge of which is either fatal or it renders one irreparably mad.. i interpret this short phrase as the closest we can get to that knowledge while retaining our sanity. The colour out of space is beyond reason, beyond whatever construct we would try to apply to it were we able to comprehend and possess it. The colour out of space is immune to elucidation. It is not a concept or a cause or a result: It is JUST a colour out of space..

    (see you in a few days)

  2. Glad to see some (more) Lovecraft love in these pages. I have to throw my hat into the ring and declare that he’s in my top 5 as well, although there have been moments of frenzied readerly intoxication (cf. “At the Mountains of Madness”, “The Temple”, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”) when I would have gladly argued for his ultimate supremacy. You may have already come across this, but here’s a link to a free version of Michel Houellebecq’s monograph on Lovecraft, filled with fascinating biographical info and a generous selection of excerpts from his correspondence:


    Also, fuck the LoA edition. Seriously. Every true HPL fan must have the complete 4-volume Arkham House set. Don’t you want your insane HPL fan art on the covers? Speaking of fan art, check out Ian Miller’s work; he did a lot of the pulp covers back in the 60s and 70s:


    Yog-Sothoth! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! Cthulhu lives!


    PS. I’m trying to get my blog up and running again. When I do I will add you to my “blogroll.”

  3. “Also, fuck the LoA edition. Seriously. Every true HPL fan must have the complete 4-volume Arkham House set.”

    this is so true.. regrettable isntance of style > substance!

    the houellebecq book is very well done! it suffers slightly from the typical french nostalgia that you find in all things they write about revered figures of the past (‘lovecraft: qui fut-il?’). worth it for his remarks on the absence of money (and women) in HPL stories.

    GHOST HOLE is the best blog name ever.

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