Have you ever wandered what happen to books that aren’t published? I imagine there is a bookish heaven or hell where manuscripts go when the author gives up on a book or when a book is rejected. Are lost books among them?
Giorgio van Straten looked up and found some of these lost books along with their stories and the adventure, mystery and sometimes conspiracies that revolved around them.
Lord Byron’s Memoirs, Ernest Hemingway’s Juvenilia, Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls (vol II), and Sylvia Plath’s Double Exposure are among the novels that Started dwelled into in his book In Search of Lost Books: The forgotten stories of eight mythical volumes (trans. Simon Carnell, Erica Segre) 1.
We have stories of chases, plagiarising, gateways, suicides and burned pages. It is said that Gogol weeped after he burned more than 500 pages of his second volume of Dead Souls. We also have jealous spouses, greedy editors, and devoted friends.
You can’t talk about each of this book stories without revealing everything about them. You have to read each one of them (the book is around 130 pages) to get involved in the treason, weeping, betrayal, robbery, death.
For me a good book has to have three ingredients: to be entertaining (not in a ha-ha way but more in the-writer-liked-to-write-this-book way), to be exciting (you want to turn every page and find out what happens next) and to have a je ne said quoi (something that can’t be put into words easily but somehow attracts you to the book). Superficial or not, these rules applied to most of classical or contemporary books I’ve read and loved. As someone (a friend or a friend of a friend) once said “when you read a good book you feel feelings towards it”.
In Search of Lost Books is easy to read short, with no unnecessary fluff. The more you read the more you want to find out more, as the chapters pass bye like small towns train stations you want it to never end. But everything ends and in this case is both bittersweet and hopeful. Hopeful that at least one of the books might resurface in a few years.
About the author
Giorgio van Straten is a well known Italian writer (he wrote nine books), translator (he translated, long others, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Call of the Wild by Jack London two of my favorite books) and promoter of cultural events – he currently hold the chair of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York.
About the translators
Simon Carnell and Erica Segre are a translating duo that also worked on Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Carlo Rovelli), The Eight Mountains (Paolo Cognetti), and Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (Carlo Rovelli).
You can find In Search of Lost Books: The forgotten stories of eight mythical volumes in most (online) bookstores.
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