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What I'm Currently Reading

Edgar Allan Poe: The Gold Bug
Jane Austen: The Watsons
Joseph Conrad: A Smile of Fortune
Elizabeth Gaskell: Cousin Phillis
Walter de la Mare: Missing
Francis Bacon: History of Henry VII
Jonathan Swift: Polite Conversation
Thomas Hardy: Wessex Poems
Cyrano de Bergerac: Journey to the Moon
Virginia Woolf: The Platform of Time
Edward Bulwer Lytton: The Coming Race
Yasmine Ghata: The Calligraphers' Night
Honore de Balzac: Sarrasine
Mikhail Kuzmin: Wings
Voltaire: Memoirs of the Life of Monsieur de Voltaire
Alexander Pushkin: The Captain's Daughter
John Bunyan: The Life and Death of Mr Badman


London, UK; www.hesperuspress.com

About Me

Hesperus Press, as suggested by the Latin motto 'Et Remotissima Prope', is committed to bringing near what is far - far both in space and time. Works written by the greatest authors, and unjustly neglected or simply little known in the English-speaking world, are made accessible through new translations and a completely fresh editorial approach. Through these classic works, the reader is introduced to the greatest writers from all times and cultures. For more information, please visit www.hesperuspress.com.

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about Joris-Karl Huysmans 2007-03-16 09:39:09

'A Rebours' is the most famous of Huysmans's works, and is the inspiration for the scandalous book which so contributes to Dorian Gray's moral degradation in Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. 'With the Flow', however, is a shorter and somewhat more accessible work, touching on the same themes of institutionalised boredom and the social fetters that force us to go 'with the flow'.

about Jane Austen 2007-03-16 09:19:28

While 'Pride and Prejudice' is the obvious choice for those making their first foray into the world of Jane Austen, it's such a shame that major works such as 'P&P', 'Emma' and 'Sense and Sensibility' have for so long eclipsed many of Austen's charming shorter works. Hesperus Press is trying to redress the balance by reprinting some of her lesser known short stories and novellas, and we would urge fans of Austen, or newcomers who may want a shorter work to begin with, to try the following:

'Lady Susan': an early work inspired by 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses'; set in decadent high society London and with a sparklingly wicked heroine, it reveals all the caustic wit and brilliant social satire of her later novels.

'The Watsons': although never finished, 'The Watsons' is a delightful and exquisitely drawn portrait of family life. Taking marriage as her central concern, Jane Austen captures in miniature the well-known, and well-loved, themes of her more famous novels.

'Love and Friendship': a delicious romp through the highs and lows of a young girl's lot in life and another precursor of Austen's later works of genius.

'Lesley Castle': an inspired epistolary novella, presenting a series of outrageously superficial characters and brilliantly showcasing Austen's comic genius.

Fuller descriptions of each of these works can be found through the links on the right; please do join Hesperus Press in celebrating these neglected gems!

about Heinrich Von Kleist 2007-03-16 08:52:14

Imbued with subtle comic moments and lashed by the passionate outbursts of anger and love experienced by characters caught in a bizarre and unpredictable chain of events, 'The Marquise of O-' is a truly Kleistian twist on the long tradition of sexual drama. Published by Hesperus Press alongside the short works 'The Earthquake in Chile' and 'The Foundling', the collected volume is a perfect all-round introduction to von Kleist, with these other works demonstrating the darker and more uncompromising elements of his art.

about Friedrich von Schiller 2007-03-16 08:38:45

Schiller's only novel, 'The Ghost-seer', is a fascinating, experimental and deliberately fragmentary work. Thrillingly held together by its dramatic plot and operatic mode, the story mixes first-person narrative with the epistolary forms to create a multi-layered fiction of deceptive simplicity. The Hesperus Press edition comes complete with a foreword by esteemed actor Martin Jarvis. A gripping introduction to the works of this important figure in eighteenth-century German literature.

about William Thackeray 2007-03-16 08:30:05

While 'Vanity Fair' is undoubtedly a masterpiece and is Thackeray's most celebrated work, the lesser known 'Rebecca and Rowena' is a wonderful example of Thackeray's refreshing irreverence in the face of Victorian piety and pomposity. It features Thackeray at his most contrary and cutting, and is a warts-and-all alternative to romantic cliches. See the link to the right for a more complete description.

about Marcel Proust 2007-03-16 08:13:55

'Pleasures and Days' was Proust's first published work, and offers an early glimpse into his literary genius. It is a stunning volume of philosophical reflections, short narratives and poems, and reveals him as both a remarkable chronicler of metropolitan life and a compassionate recorder of the most poignant sensations and recollections. A.N. Wilson observes, in his introduction to Hesperus Press's edition of the work, that 'Just as the youthful Darwin had painstakingly observed the minute gradations of finches' beaks in the Galapagos islands... so the young Proust, noting how a certain social species might turn up now in a great salon, now in an artist's studio, and again in a low dive - had begun the process of accumulating knowledge which wowuld produce the greatest masterpiece of French fiction: 'In Search of Lost Time'.

For those wishing to dip their toes in the Proustian waters without delving straight into the depths '...Lost Time', 'Pleasures and Days' is the ideal choice. Just as it prepared the writer for the production of his mammoth later work, it will prepare the reader for the appreciation of it.

about Emile Zola 2007-03-16 07:29:34

For those wanting to explore the works of Zola without initially committing to a lengthy work, 'For a Night of Love' is the ideal choice. The Hesperus Press edition contains the eponymous short story alongside 'Nantas' and 'Le Jeune' (translated as 'Fasting'). The three stories are linked by their themes of deception and dissatisfaction, and Zola presents characters bargaining for romantic, financial or religious assurances. Typically gritty work from the author famed for his skill in literary naturalism.

about Marquis de Sade 2007-03-16 07:18:29

De Sade has gained a reputation as a grim and somewhat unpalatable author and philosopher, and this renown may serve as a deterrent to many strangers to his work. However, there are many works both shorter and lighter in delivery than 'The 120 Days of Sodom', which would serve as excellent introductions to this key figure in French literature and the gothic.

Hesperus Press has published three of these shorter works, full details of which can be found through the 'Titles' comment links on the right hand side of this page. 'Eugenie de Franval', was published in 2003 as 'Incest'. A chilling tale of sexual experimentation and philosophical exploration, it presents all of the libertine intemperance of de Sade's more famous works, but is altogether less daunting at a fraction of the length.

Hesperus Press' 2006 publication 'Betrayal' combines the short stories 'Le President Mystifie' and 'Emilie de Tourville', both of which present the sexual licentiousness and disregard for traditional morality for which de Sade was famed, but in a significantly lighter and more comedic fashion than is typical of the author. It is therefore ideal for any readers who find themselves deterred by the dark depravity associated with the Marquis de Sade.

about Thomas Hardy 2007-03-16 06:40:51

The novella 'Fellow-Townsmen' serves as the perfect short introduction to the themes of Hardy's more lengthy works. It takes as its central concern a consideration of the respective influences of accident and destiny in sealing our fates; this preoccupation is echoed throughout Hardy's work, as for example in the maxim in the major work 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' that 'Character is Fate'.

This novella is both immensely readable and ideal preparation for Hardy's longer works.

about Fyodor Dostoevsky 2007-03-16 06:22:41

'Notes from the Underground' makes the perfect introduction to Dostoevsky, as it is both one of his most celebrated works, and sufficiently short not to overwhelm the new reader. It is also an excellent choice in that it bridges the gap between his earlier and later works, thus providing a truly representative taste of the author.

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Title Comments

about With the Flow (A Vau-l'eau) by Joris-Karl Huysmans 2007-03-16 09:34:34

Intelligent though he is, M. Folantin's poverty and puny physique have doomed him to a humdrum existence of unvarying office work by day, evenings of insipid restaurant food, and a lonely bed at night. But once in a while, Folantin is inspired to break this cycle of misery and search for happiness: in a new menu, a visit to the theatre, in the arms of a prostitute. Ultimately, however, he discovers that nothing can shake from him his disgust at the business of living.

about The Watsons by Jane Austen 2007-03-16 09:11:26

The youngest daughter of a widowed clergyman, Emma Watson has been brought up by a wealthy aunt, where she is given a genteel education and the expectation of independent means. However, when her aunt suddenly makes a reckless second marriage, Emma is obliged to return to her father's house and be reunited with her estranged siblings. Initially delighted with her new life, Emma soon realises that her family harbours many ill feelings, not least those springing from her sisters' hopes - and disappointments - in snaring husbands. When she begins to attract attention from the nearby titled family and their associated friends, the result can only be further sibling rivalry and unrest.

about Lady Susan by Jane Austen 2007-03-16 09:07:51

The victim of a vicious scandal, impoverished widow Lady Susan is obliged to take up residence with her brother-in-law and his family. Anxious to arrange financially secure marriages for both herself and her wayward daughter, she refuses to resign herself to the rol of placid house-guest, instead baffling her hosts and seducing her sister-in-law's brother by means of her impeccable gentility and some well-judged flirtation. Yet before her victory is complete, she must contend with the untimely reappearance of a former lover.

about Love and Friendship by Jane Austen 2007-03-16 09:03:05

When a noble youth arrives unannounced to request the hand of the matchless Laura, it seems their future is one of contentment and bliss - that is until his family learn of the marriage and, one by one, they reject the new bridge. So begins the series of unspeakable events that Laura must confront and overcome, by way of the occasional fainting fit and bout of delirium.

about Lesley Castle by Jane Austen 2007-03-16 08:59:51

As Miss Margaret Lesley and Miss Charlotte Lutterell divulge their innermost secrets through a series of letters, each reveals where her true priorities lie: if a bridegroom is fatally wounded the night before his wedding, the first concern must inexorably be for the luxurious food that will be laid to waste. As one plot gives way to the next, and as the heroines exchange wisdom on adultery, elopement, divorce and remarriage, they increasingly become prey to the merciless and lambasting sword of Jane Austen's wit.

A young Marquise, caught in mortal danger in the midst of a furious battle, falls into a deep swoon. She comes round moments later, however, safe within her castle and apparently unharmed, and is able to resume her life in gratitude and complacency. So when, weeks later, she is alarmed by strange periods of faintness and indisposition, the solution that suggests itself seems entirely irrational. How could the widowed young Marquise be pregnant? And what will her parents say?

For a rich young Prince travelling incognito with his loyal companion, Venice promises only freedom and independence - until they encounter a mysterious masked Armenian who delivers them a strange prophecy. And when his words prove true, this enigmatic figure develops a deeply sinister influence over them, drawing them into darker forms of 'magic'. Misled by Schiller's ingenious metaphorical mirrors and narrative smokescreens, it becomes increasingly unclear whether the apparitions the Prince sees are the manifestations of a troubled spirit world or simply an elaborate hoax. Whatever the case, it seems that unknown powers are at work amidst the lavish atmosphere of the Venetian setting.

about Rebecca and Rowena by William Thackeray 2007-03-16 08:24:45

Shamelessly parodying Sir Walter Scott's vast popular success, a youthful William Makepeace Thackeray wrote a novel loosely based on Scott's 'Ivanhoe'. Irreverently exploring what happened after Scott's novel ended, 'Rebecca and Rowena' takes as its premise Ivanhoe's mistaken marriage to the wrong woman - 'icy, faultless, prim' Rowena - and ridiculously reunites the hero with his first love, the Jewess Rebecca. From bawdy and blood-thirsty Richard the Lion-heart, to Wamba, Ivanhoe's Shakespearean Fool, Thackeray's characters come into their own as facetious renditions of hackneyed medieval stereotypes. His is a surreal, parallel universe, stuffed with anachronistic props and starring a host of twelfth-century cynics.

Taking as his setting the glamour and heady sophistication of fin-de-siecle Parisian salon society, Proust here presents a series of sketches and short stories depicting the lives, lovs, manners and motivations of a host of characters. Amorous entanglements, idle vanities and feigned morality are all viewed with a characteristically knowing eye. By turns cuttingly satirical and bitterly moving, Proust's portrayals are layered with imagery and feeling, whether they be of the aspiring Bouvard and Pecuchet, the deluded Madame de Breyves, or of Baldassare Silvande, saturated with regret, memory and tragic understanding in the face of death.

about Eugenie de Franval (Incest) by Marquis de Sade 2007-03-16 07:02:30

De Sade's semi-autobiographical protagonist and anti-hero is Monsieur de Franval - handsome, rich, intelligent, and thoroughly immoral. When he marries a pious woman and fathers a daughter upon her, franval is determined to educate his progeny to be 'free'. The ultimate proof of his daughter's liberty? That she become his secret lover. But when the beautiful and accomplished Eugenie spurns an eligible young bachelor, instead declaring her intention to remain with her father, her naive and doting mother's suspicions are at last aroused. Confused and distressed by Augenie's behaviour, Madame de Franval confronts her husband - with tragic results.

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