Friday, January 31, 2014

The Aspern Papers by Henry James

This Henry James novella, The Aspern Papers, is set in decaying Venice.  It was first published in 1888, and was made into a sanitized black and white film in 1947.  The film is pure, delightful, entertaining melodrama.  You can view it below, thanks to YouTube.  The original story, as written by Henry James, however, is darkly wonderful, and not at all melodramatic.

From the a description from a Henry James website (see below):
As a means of getting hold of papers relating to the early-nineteenth century American romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern, the unnamed narrator manages to obtain lodgings in the Venetian palazzo which houses the very old lady who, in her youth, was Aspern’s muse and (probably) lover. Juliana and her niece remain secretive, and the narrator is, ultimately, unable to pay the emotional price which the papers will cost him.

If you have ever read a Henry James novel, especially the later novels, you know they can be ponderous and verbally dense.  The Aspern Papers are anything but!  This is Henry James-light.  It is a joy to read the wordsmith with the brakes on.

The descriptions of decaying Venice, and the decrepit palace are very convincing, and even poetical.  The decrepit woman central to the story is monstrous.  The deceit and cunning and evil intent of the characters is richly described.

You can download a free e-book of The Aspern Papers from Project Gutenberg, the grand-daddy of free e-book sites.  The offer the book in various e-book formats.

The book is available in various formats.  Here are the versions of The Aspern Papers available at

Please visit this wonderful Henry James website.

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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