Five Novels

Front Cover
New Directions Publishing, 1981 - Fiction - 342 pages
2 Reviews
"A person who dislikes Ronald Firbank," quipped W. H. Auden, "may, for all I know, possess some admirable quality, but I do not wish ever to see him again." Edmund Wilson pronounced him "one of the finest writers of his period." Part high camp comedy of manners and part fairy tale, Five Novels by Ronald Firbank (1886-1926) is introduced by Osbert Sitwell. Firbank lived a life of exquisite, if lonely, leisure. He composed all his novels on postcards in his countless hotel rooms, always lavish with flowers. His moves were impulsive--"Tomorrow I go to Haiti. They say the President is a Perfect Dear!" ran one telegram to a surprised friend. At a dinner party given in his honor, the pathologically shy author refused to consume anything more than a single pea. His no less eccentric creations, Parvula de Panzoust and her guest Eulalia Thoroughfare of Valmouth, dine on "salmis of cocks'-combs saignant with B chamel sauce." In The Artificial Princess, a queen with a passion for motoring roars about her realm for hours with her crown on. The Flower Beneath the Foot, Prancing Nigger, and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli are also included in this volume. "If only," concludes Sitwell, "we might have the joy of reading a new book from his pen, a book that would be so deliciously unlike any others in the world save his own." It is hoped that this collection will bring more readers that extraordinary experience.

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User Review  - corinneblackmer - LibraryThing

No one truly interested in gay literature (or great 20th century modernist writing, for that matter) should fail to read the marvelous--and hilarious--work of Ronald Firbank. His use of subcultural ... Read full review

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Firbank was an exquisite artist who influenced writers as various as Ernest Hemingway and Evelyn Waugh, who admitted that one scene in "Vile Bodies" was virtually lifted from Firbank. His dialogue is incredibly funny. You do not read him for the plot, but for the asthetic frissons provided by an extremely polished and witty writer. Obviously not for everybody. 



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About the author (1981)

Born in London, the son of a wealthy businessman, Ronald Firbank was educated at Uppingham and Cambridge University. In 1909 he converted to Roman Catholicism and left the university without taking a degree. Instead, he embarked on extensive travels in Spain, Italy, the Middle East, and North Africa. By nature he was a rather solitary individual, perhaps because of his rather delicate health and his homosexuality. Firbank's first novel, Vainglory (1915), was originally published privately, as were other early works. He wrote his novels on blue postcards. Though slight, these works were innovative and prefigured the works of such writers as Ivy Compton-Burnett and Evelyn Waugh. Elements in the work of Aldous Huxley, Angus Wilson, and Iris Murdoch can also be attributed to Firbank's creativity. Firbank's original and subtle novels have appealed to a small but appreciative audience, and, during the 1950s and early 1960s, he posthumously acquired a band of devoted disciples. Firbank had a fine disdain for plot and a taste for eccentric characters. The world he created was small and creditable. The Complete Ronald Firbank (1961), with a preface by Anthony Powell, is a worthwhile edition of his works. Still a young man, Ronald Firbank died in Rome in 1926.

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