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The Aspern Papers



I remember seeing the film version of this novel as a very young girl and fell in love with the story then. Very romantic, set in Italy; poignant and rather frightening at the same time. The book, of course, is even better! Henry James, to me is the Master of things "not said", and the undercurrents are the mysterious parts of his beautiful tales.--Submitted by Anonymous

The Aspern Papers is a story about one man's literary obsession with Jeffrey Aspern, a famous poet. Our man is an editor of Aspern's work who is desperate to obtain a collection of his letters. He believes these to belong to one of Jeffrey's old girlfriends, Juliana, who was the subject of many of Jeffrey's poems back in their younger days. The aged Juliana and her niece live in Venice, and our man's aim is to rent rooms in their large house in order to find a way to get at the papers. Lovely descriptions of Venice and interesting characters make this an enjoyable read. It is also a study in the ways that obsession can cloud your view and your judgment.--Submitted by Karen Hill.

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One of my favorite James

James in my favorite writer of fiction, especially of the short story. I love his novellas, and this is probably my personal favorite. I even have two unabridged audio recordings of it, the best I think is by Jonathan Epstein--and although I prefer the sound of the British English voice on readings, it makes sense that both recordings of the novella are by Yanks. "The Aspern Papers" was revised by James for his New York Edition, and it is that version published by Oxford World's Classic in the collection The Aspern Papers and Other Stores. I was amused, while reading the long-delayed second volume of Sheldon M. Novick's very curious and slightly perverse biography of James, Novick's chiding of James for having written the story: "The story was a cruel joke, and it concerned people who were still living..." (Henry James, The Mature Years, page 110). The story is strange and mysterious, and seems full of symbols. The garden outside the Bordereau's old palace is as faded, forlorn and neglected as the inhabitants of the old dark house, and this seems emphasized by the narrator's first description of seeing (as she is named in the revision) Miss Tina: "Her face was not young, but it was candid; it was not fresh, but it was clear. She had large eyes which were not bright, and a great deal of hair which was not 'dressed,' and long fine hands that were--possibly--not clean." James is often called a "difficult" writer, but the narrative of this story flows and captivates. I often think people who say they find James difficult are actually saying they find him dull, but that's just my little idea. The drama of this tale is subdued, except at one thrilling moment of stealth and discovery. One complaint made about James is that he didn't experience "Life," that he was too over-concerned with his art but that his art is removed from "reality" because James did little else but sit in rooms and compose his Works. And yet James's life was indeed so full that Leon Edel wrote a biography of the writer in five volumes, and two full novels have been written in recent years concerning James's life: Author, Author, by David Lodge and The Master, by Colm Toibin. I often compare James's life with that of another beloved writer, Oscar Wilde. Who, I ask, lived the richer existence, the finer life? Both men were extremely social, but Wilde was the adventurous soul, I think. It is a fallacy that Wilde was lazy--when he worked, he worked hard; but he also played hard, if legend may be believed. I have spent the best part of my manhood aping the squalid underworld existence of Oscar Wilde, dwelling in the mire and finding gobs of irreverent pleasure. I have almost nothing to show for such a waste of life. Now in my twilight years, I am trying to follow the example of Henry James, to live for one's Literary Art. Thus I feel, absolutely, that James led the finer, fuller life. Selah.

The transfigured niece

Here's a fine subtlety I missed! Just before the intrusive critic learns of the cremation of the great poet's papers, he sees in the niece a reflection of the aunt's dazzling eyes, a relic of her one-time attractiveness to Jeffrey Aspern himself. Amazingly, the critic muses for a moment that he could even marry the niece, finally freed from her aunt's governance. But he directly learns his instinctive spurning of the niece has lost him more than his treasured papers. He realises that, in alienating the niece, he may have spurned something of a radiance that once inspired the poet. All thatís left is to offer her a parting tribute: money for the Aspern miniature the critic demurred to sell.

My Thoughts

I rather enjoyed the sense of mystery within this story, I found it a quite enjoyable tale in which I kept finding myself going back and forth on the issue. In the beginning of the story, I was rooting for him to outsmart the old woman and claim possession of the papers, but than as the story went on, I began to take side with the old woman and found what he was doing to be wrong. Yet a part of me was still rooting for the journalist in someway. Ultimately I really liked the ending, though a part of me was sad to see the papers destroyed, a part of me was actually hoping that they had been buried with the old woman.


I am studying the Aspern Papers and i can't find the name of the american journalist looking to retrieve the papers

Tackling an essay

I think its a very good book! But im finding it hard to do an essay on. The subject is is on the imagery and to discuss the the revelence and importance of imagery. Do you have any ideas? Id b really grateful if you could email me! Thanks!!

No subject

I just finished this book and thought it was great.It is my third Henry James novel and I am starting to like his work although I am worried about reading his longer,wordier ones like The Wings of The Dove.This one was rather wordy but still managed to be gripping.

No Subject

To clarify - Her name is Tita in one version of the book and Tina in another and they were sisters on one version and neice and aunt in another. It depends what version you have.

No Subject

You could not have had that discription more wrong...
First.. her name it TITA... not Tina... and they were not sisters...
they were neice and aunt!!

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