Auto-da-fé: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress ends with a conflagration of Western masterpieces. Father Goriot, Edmund Dantes, Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Emma Bovary and many, many others are condemned as ‘heretics’ and burned. Dai Sijie’s enchanting, slim, fable-like novel centres around the ‘re-education’ of two teenage friends during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

James Joyce and the detritus of reality…

Joyce was a nomad. He was born in 1882, in Rathgar, a suburb of Dublin, and grew up the oldest of ten surviving children. After he started school, his family changed houses nine times in eleven years, an itinerancy not always undertaken by choice. They sometimes moved, with their shrinking stock of possessions, at night, in order to escape the attention of creditors. They did not leave a forwarding address…

The Invention of George Eliot, Part IV: Marriage

How should George Eliot’s marriage to John Cross be read? Her various biographers offer a range of interpretations. Haight interprets it straightforwardly, as an act of sincere affection. Bodenheimer reads her marriage to Cross as a pragmatic, but also essentially conservative, step. Redlinger proposes that she married from “a fear of losing her power to love”. . . .