In my inbox today was a newsletter from
Penguin Classics UK in which they list the…
Top Ten Cruellest Classics (wah, ha, har!)
They didn’t say ‘wah, ha, har!’ that was me. I thought it needed something.
They did say this, however:
Despite some sunny days recently, we wouldn’t dare argue with T. S. Eliot – and since it’s April, here is our top ten of the very Cruellest classics:
1. Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola
‘It was like a lightning flash of passion, swift, blinding, across a leaden sky’
In a dingy apartment on the Passage du Pont Neuf in Paris, Thérèse Raquin is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin Camille. The numbing tedium of her life is suddenly shattered when she embarks on a turbulent affair with her husband’s earthy friend Laurent, but their animal passion for each other soon compels the lovers to commit a crime that will haunt them forever. Thérèse Raquin caused a scandal when it appeared in 1867 and brought its twenty-seven-year-old author a notoriety that followed him throughout his life. Zola’s novel is not only an uninhibited portrayal of adultery, madness and ghostly revenge, but is also a devastating exploration of the darkest aspects of human existence.
Robin Buss’s new translation superbly conveys Zola’s fearlessly honest and matter of fact style. In his introduction, he discusses Zola’s life and literary career, and the influence of art, literature and science on his writing. This edition also includes the preface to the second edition of 1868, a chronology, further reading and notes. Buy
“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.”
Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story–except that he starts from here, with his characteristic dazzling skill and irony, and brilliantly turns a fable into a chilling, original novel of folly and destruction.
Amidst a Weimar-era milieu of silent film stars, artists, and aspirants, Nabokov creates a merciless masterpiece as Albinus, an aging critic, falls prey to his own desires, to his teenage mistress, and to Axel Rex, the scheming rival for her affections who finds his greatest joy in the downfall of others. Buy
Ah, why should wrath be mute, and fury dumb?
I am no baby, I, that with base prayers
I should repent the evils I have done;
Ten thousand worse, than ever yet I did
Would I perform, if I might have my will.
If one good deed in all my life I did,
I do repent it from my very soul. Continue reading
Filed under: Fiction, Literary Classic, Literature | Tagged: A Clockwork Orange, A Handful of Dust, Anthony Burgess, Casino Royale, Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Euripides, Evelyn Waugh, Honoré de Balzac, Ian Fleming, Laughter in the Dark, Medea, Old Man Goriot, Oliver Twist, Penguin Classics, Tess of the D"Urbervilles, Thérèse Raquin, Thomas Hardy, Titus Andronicus, Vladimir Nabokov, William Shakespeare | Leave a comment »