The Aspern Papers
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What price will a young writer pay for the secrets of a legendary poet? Our hero and narrator, who is never named, travels to Venice in search of the closely guarded papers of Jeffrey Aspern. In recent times he has tried to publish the papers, only to be turned away by the fiercely possessive Juliana Bordereau, a former mistress of the poet. Now determined to get his hands on these literary treasures by hook or by crook, the narrator arrives in Venice, concealing his identity as he rents a room from the unsuspecting Juliana. He finds Juliana's unattractive and unmarried niece, Tita, living with the elderly woman. When Tita hears of his plan, she agrees to help. However, the narrator grows impatient as the days wear on and he still has not seen the papers. Seizing an opportunity, he searches Juliana's desk one day, only to be discovered by the old woman, who collapses with shock and eventually dies. After this tragic turn of events, the narrator is left with Tita, who makes him a shrewd offer—the papers, in return for marriage. The narrator leaves without accepting, weighing the value of this prized possession against the price of his freedom. What is he willing to do for what he wants? What price is too high? This riveting gem of a novella draws us in and holds us tightly all the way to the end.
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Henry James (1843-1916) was born in New York City to a wealthy and prominent family. His father was a well-known writer and thinker, and James’s parents offered their son a solid education and frequent travel to Europe. James began to write as a young man, publishing his first novel, Watch and Ward, in 1871. Over the next several years, James produced a wealth of short stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction prose, among them such celebrated titles as The Portrait of a Lady, Roderick Hudson, The Bostonians, and What Maisie Knew. Living most of his life abroad, James moved in many prominent intellectual circles, befriending many of the great artists, writers, and thinkers of his day. In a move that shocked many, James took British citizenship in 1915 in order to express his disappointment with the United States for not yet having entered the First World War. Feeling more at home abroad than in America, James spent the rest of his life in England. To this day, he is known as “the Master” for his intelligent, intricate writing that explores the dramatic psychological machinations beneath even the simplest of human interactions and events.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
I had taken Mrs. Prest into my confidence; in truth without her I should have made but little advance, for the fruitful idea in the whole business dropped from her friendly lips. It was she who invented the short cut, who severed the Gordian knot. It is not supposed to be the nature of women to ...Back to top
Reviewed by legalbs2 on Jun 16, 2009
This was interesting, but became very strange as you continue to read. Not sure exactly what I got from this tale.
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Ratings for 'The Aspern Papers' by James, Henry