Friday, February 10, 2006

Verse Novels, part two

My friend Geoff reminded me of three other verse novels:

Vikram Seth, "The Golden Gate"
Anthony Burgess, "Byrne"
Alexander Pushkin, "Eugene Onegin"

I have never read Seth's book, although it came out in the 1980s when I lived in the San Francisco area -- and I should have read it then, because it is a novel in sonnets about Yuppies in the Bay Area in the 1980s!

I read Burgess's book when I stumbled on it in a bookstore in 1997. In fact, it was, in a sense, the first verse novel I ever read. It was published posthumously in 1995; it was the last book AB ever wrote. I don't remember much about it at all, actually. Time to re-read it!

I read Eugene Onegin last year in Tom Beck's wonderful 2004 translation. A must read for anyone who likes to read classics! And if you can't read it in Russian, then Beck's version is a great alternative. In fact, he was inspired to begin translating EO by a German translation of the book that Ulrich Busch published in 1981 (at least that's the publication date).

I also remembered two others that are on my shelf:

Fred D'Aguiar, "Bill of Rights"
Thylias Moss, "Slave Moth"

I read the D'Aguiar when it came out in 1998. The topic? The Jonestown massacre in Guyana! A potentially fascinating book that never quite worked, as I remember it.

The Moss was published in 2004. Again, I wish I had gotten more into it; it is a novel in the voice of a slave taught to read by her master. But I bogged down in it and have not finished it (yet).


Geoff Brock said...

Okay, as long as we're trying to be thorough... A British woman named Bernadine Evaristo has published a couple that have received a lot of press, LARA and THE EMPEROR'S BABE.

And quick web search turns up a pair by Aussies, one pre- and one post-Fredy: "The Times of Zenia Gold" by Chris Jones (1992) and "Universal Andalusia" by B.R. Dionysius (2004).

And then, of course, there's Elizabeth Barrett Browning's AURORA LEIGH -- could this be the first "novel in verse"?

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that Eugene Onegin is the template for The Golden Gate. It's as though Seth was ghosting Pushkin.