Penguin Classics UK: Top Ten Cruellest Classics

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


 2. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov

“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



3. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

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

What our customers think of Popular Penguins

One week down and three weeks to go in our fantastic Popular Penguin promotion and up for grabs are four Popular Penguin libraries. Yep, one set of 20 books of your choice are going off each week.

All the details are here. It is not too late to enter the competition.

Meanwhile, here are some comments from  some of our entrants so far. Having read through all of their wishlists, I reckon I should be curled up with one of those orange and cream beauties rather than writing this now! What a way to whet my appetite!

So the question Booktopia readers were asked was “which Popular Penguin book are you most looking forward to reading?” Continue reading

Ten Terrifying Questions on The Breaking of Eggs with Jim Powell

On the eve of his Australian publishing début,

we ask

Jim Powell

author of

The Breaking of Eggs

Ten Terrifying Questions

__________________________________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in London in May 1949 and grew up there. I left London more than 25 years ago, but I will always be a Londoner. I was lucky enough to have about as good an education as you can get – Charterhouse School and Cambridge University.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I have never not wanted to be a writer, if that makes sense! But I always thought I would do it later in life. Whether that was prescience, self-fulfilling prophesy or lack of confidence, I have no idea. At 12 I certainly wanted to be a pop star. At 18 I think I mostly wanted to be grown-up. At 30 I wanted to be a politician. Possibly I have now achieved the second of these ambitions.

3.    What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

More than anything, a belief in strongly-held beliefs. Some people base their lives on the rock of certainty; others on the rock of doubt. The longer I live, the more I am attracted to the rock of doubt. I think, and certainly hope, that this attitude is neither weak nor indecisive, and that an admission of ignorance is the Continue reading

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