After some of my epic reading during August (in particular the Serge!) I found myself drawn to slimmer works for a while, and today I wanted to talk about a couple of interesting short pieces I read towards the end of the month. They’re very different works, but both have *many* points of interest!

How a Romantic Novel was Evolved by Mervyn Peake

One of the things which happened over the summer was a major reshuffle and prune of the mountainous heaps of books in the house; and of course whilst doing this, I inevitably stumbled across things I forgot I’d picked up… One of these was a collection from 1959 called “A New Romantic Anthology”; and no, it has nothing to do with Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet or the like! Edited by Stefan Schimanski and Henry Treece, the book sets out to try to “show how widely spread is the Romantic attitude in British writing today.” So the editors bring together essays, poetry and short stories from all the nations of the UK, including some very tantalising items of Scottish and Welsh poetry. However, the reason I have the book is because I am a Mervyn Peake completist, and the book contains a short piece with the above title where Peake talks about the genesis of his Gormenghast writing, complete with some extracts from “Titus Groan”…

That alone makes fascinating reading, even though his introduction to the extracts are only a page long. But the icing on the cake, for me, is four glossy plates of his drawings of Gormenghast characters, including one on a manuscript. They’re quite stunning and beautiful, and so the book had to be procured and added to my Very Large Peake Collection. Reading the extracts reminded me, too, that I may well have left enough space since my re-read of “Gormenghast” and should perhaps get on with “Titus Alone” soon… ;D

The Riches of Uncertainty: Queneau and Cioran by Jean-Pierre Longre, translated by Rosemary Lloyd

Back in June, I shared my thoughts about an intriguing new book from a publisher I’d not come across before; this was “The Double Rimbaud” by Victor Segalen, published by Black Herald Press in France. They specialise in bilingual works of most interesting essays, and contacted me to ask if I would be interested in any more of their titles. This particular little volume caught my attention, as I love Queneau’s work and Cioran is on the TBR – so of course I said yes! Author Jean-Pierre Longre is a university professor, critic and author; here, over 20-odd pages, he muses over the connections between two authors who may not seem an obvious match and finds much to compare between the two!

All this remains fragile, subject to the constant doubt of the reader and the two writers who, extremely keen on philosophy, do not proclaim themselves philosophers and indeed are not philosophers. They propose no system, but rather let questions develop, disassociations reveal themselves, and they give free reign to their scepticism, their humour, their mockery, their self-mockery.

Queneau is of course best known for his OuLiPian connections and probably for his book “Zazie on the Metro”; Cioran, in contrast, was a Romanian philosopher and essayist. Yet for Longre there are strong links between two writers who do not necessarily claim to be philosophers but product philosophical works. What interests them both seems to be language and literary writing, and so perhaps the threads between the two are more substantial than might be seen at first. It’s an elegant and thoughtful work, beautifully translated (of course I read the English version!) and has left me pondering about the two authors and determinted to get onto Cioran sooner rather than later.

Black Herald Press books are beautifully produced, with the French version of the work at the front and the English at the back; this allows for comparison between two languages if wished for, but doesn’t have the other version right in front of your nose while you’re reading, which I enjoy!


So a couple of short and enjoyable reading experiences which have left me wanting to read several different books at once. If I’m honest, I don’t think my next post, on Monday, is going to help very much with that either… 🙄


ETA: I’ve been asked about the contents of the Romanticism book, so here are a couple of images with the contents!