Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Leroux, Gaston

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(1868-1927) French writer, known for mysteries like Le Mystere de la Chambre Jaune (1908; trans as The Mystery of the Yellow Room 1908 UK; vt Murder in the Bedroom 1945 Belgium), a pioneer Locked Room mystery.

He remains most famous, however, for Le Fantome de l'Opera (1910; trans Alexander Texeira de Mattos as The Phantom of the Opera 1911 UK). Although there is nothing supernatural in his text, the charged Grand-Guignol ambience GL created seems to point to a non-naturalistic explanation of the story; movie versions (> Phantom of the Opera) have tended to render those hints in literal terms. But GL assured his readers that the story was based on fact. Erik, a Middle Eastern ex-torturer and half-crazed musician, lurks in the Labyrinth of passages and catacombs that make the gigantic Paris Opera House a genuine Edifice. He creates a series of mysterious events to further the career of Christine Daaé, a beautiful young singer; and, when the Opera managers refuse to make her a star, inflicts savage revenge. Certain scenes – the Masque which evokes Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842), and the moment when the "phantom's" own Mask is stripped off – have become Horror paradigms. The story as a whole is a central Urban Fantasy.

Most of GL's other work of genre interest is sf, though his first novel, La Double Vie de Theophraste Lonquet (1904; trans as The Double Life 1909 US; rev vt, trans Edgar Jepson as The Man with the Black Feather 1912 UK), is a tale of Possession: a long-dead villain attempts to commit further felonies in the 20th century, and an Underground race of mutants, with ears like horns, features. Other titles include: Le Fauteuil hante (1911; trans as The Haunted Chair 1931 US), horror; Balaoo (1912; trans Alexander Texeira de Mattos 1913), which was filmed as The Wizard (1927) and as Dr Renault's Secret (1942), plus its sequel, Les Fils de Balaoo ["Balaoo's Sons"] (1937), about a half-man, half-ape; L'Epouse du Soleil (1913; trans as The Bride of the Sun 1915 US), a Lost-Race tale; The Man who Came Back from the Dead (1916 UK; trans, preceding 1st French publication, of L'Homme qui Revient de Loin 1917); Aventures Effroyables de Herbert de Renich (1920 in 2 vols: Le Capitaine Hyx, trans Hannaford Bennett as The Amazing Adventures of Carolus Herbert 1922 UK; and La Bataille Invisible, trans as The Veiled Prisoner 1923 UK), a saga obviously inspired by Jules Verne and featuring a marvellous submarine equipped with an array of fantastic devices; Le Coeur Cambriole (1922; trans with 2 Contes Cruels in coll The Burgled Heart 1925 UK); and La Poupée Sanglante (1924; trans as The Kiss that Killed 1934 US), with its sequel, La Machine à Assassiner (1924; trans as The Machine to Kill 1935 US), sf. A Peter Haining anthology – The Gaston Leroux Bedside Companion (coll 1980; exp vt Real Opera Ghost and Other Tales 1994) – assembles most of GL's short work of interest, much of it originally translated for WT. [RD/JC]

Gaston Leroux


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.