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The Aspern Papers (English Edition) Format Kindle
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The plot reminded me of AS Byatt's Possession--digging into the romantic past of a famous poet at the cost of decency and respect for the wishes of the living and the dead., I wonder if Byatt was consciously or unconsciously influenced by this earlier work?
One unJamesian feature of this book is the sketchy and incomplete development of the main character. He is nameless, of an indeterminate age, and his physical appearance and past is never described. Perhaps it was just another layer of subtle mystery.
There is clear foreshadowing, this is not a spoiler it's early in the story, that the papers turn to ashes...but the tension is in why and how....I love it...but then I'm an archivist. Then in a case of life imitating art, some years after writing the story one of his close friends, Constance Fenimore Woolson, the great niece of Fenimore Cooper, committed suicide, jumping out of the window of her Venetian apartment. Earlier James and Fenimore had shared the same cook and shared meals every night in Florence for weeks. It's known that she had wanted a closer relationship, rather like Miss Tina and the narrator. After her suicide, James ingratiated himself with her family by spending weeks sorting her papers. And her letters from James disappeared along with most of hers to him. Anita Feferman wrote a fine biography of my friend Jean van Heijenoort entitled "Politics, Logic and Love," but she published it after Jean's death. Privacy in legal terms is supposed to end at death. Editing his stories and his own papers, James ensured his privacy and his fame way into the future.
They are a sorry pair and a wonderful example of Henry James' mature writing. The Aspern Papers feel modern, foregoing action for psychological motivation. Most interesting to those who love James would be the curious parallels in his own life. A very private person who loathed a snoop but loved the appurtenances that came with fame; at times one can see him as Old Miss Bordereau, determined to keep personal matters from prying eyes. On the other hand he was a writer who unfailingly, often ruthlessly used acquaintances and friends as fodder for his stories. One can see him digging through others' lives, unhesitatingly. His journals bulge with anecdotes and reminiscences that go straight from the dinner table to the printed page. Rarely did he worry about a friends feelings if it improved his writing.
Ironically, in the middle of these two sparring partners is a niece past her prime torn between a life-long obligation and a budding affection. Tugged at from both sides young Miss Bordereau is victimized twice over. Her treatment from aunt and scholar is an insightful look at people who use people to suit their purpose. In the wonderful ending our scholar learns that nothing--neither success nor renunciation--comes without a price.
Very well done.