Decadence meets gothic in Manfred Macmillan (1907), a carefully constructed tale of doppelgangers, magical intrigue, and the rootless scion of a noble house. This annotated, first-ever English translation presents an early queer novel long unavailable except in the original Czech. Author Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic (1871–1951) was a major cultural figure in his native Bohemia and cultivated ties with fellow artists from across Central Europe. In their extensive scholarly introduction, translator Carleton Bulkin and translation scholar Brian James Baer situate the novel within longer histories of gay literature, fascinations with the occult, and the cultural and linguistic politics of so-called peripheral European nations. They persuasively frame Karásek as a queer author and cultural disruptor in the fin de siècle Habsburg space.
Karasék rejected Czech translations of ancient Greek writers that bowdlerized gay themes, and he personally and vigorously defended Oscar Wilde in print, both on the grounds of artistic freedom and of private morality. He also published a cycle of homoerotic poems under the title Sodom, confiscated by the Austrian authorities but republished in 1905 and repeatedly afterward. A colonized subject, a literary decadent, and a sexual outlaw, Karasék’s complex responses to his own marginalization can be traced through his fantastically strange novel trilogy Three Magicians. As the first volume in that series, Manfred Macmillan is a gorgeous, compelling, and important addition to expanding canons of LGBTQI+ literature.