Thursday, December 4, 2014

Penguin Modern Classics 7–Miscellaneous

This post will display the final books in my Penguin Modern Classics collection, and encompasses authors from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, India, Australia and Russia.

The first is Nobel Prize winning novelist,  Elias Canetti’s Auto Da Fé, a book which I remember reading and not liking much, though at Space Age Books, where I worked in the ‘70s, it was something of a best seller.

I don’t recall ever reading Karel Capek’s Apocryphal Tales, so how the book ended up on my shelves I haven’t a clue, though it has a great cover with art by Max Ernst. Capek  is credited with creating the term “robot” (in his  novel R.U.R)

canetti_auto da fe1973_otto dix_roter kopf capek_apocryphal stories1975_ernst_europe after the rain
1973 edition – “Roter Kopf” by Otto Dix 1975 edition – “Europe After the Rain” by Max Ernst

Next, three novels by Joseph Conrad, who is well known as the author of Heart of Darkness, of which I do not have a copy, though I recall reading it way back when.

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1965 edition – portrait of Conrad 1963 edition – portrait of Conrad by Walter Tittle


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1969 edition – “Evening in Karl Johan Street Oslo” by Edvard Munch

The next book is a curious and comical picaresque novel by G. V. Desani titled All About H. Haterr. It is written in idiosyncratic Anglo Indian prose, and tells the story of the  hapless eponymous hero’s  adventures in his search for wisdom and enlightenment. I loved this novel when I first read it back in the early 1970s, so must reread it sometime.

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1972 edition – “Two Saints in a Landscape” by F.N, Souza

Patrick White, though English born, is acclaimed in Australia as one its greatest writers. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. I must admit that I’m not all that great a fan of his books, and have not, as far as I recall, read any of them, though come to think of it, perhaps I tried to read one of them and didn’t finish it.

I have two of them in Penguin Modern Classics editions.

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1967 edition  - cover art by Sidney Nolan 1973 edition – “Still Life with Self Portrait” by John Brack

The final book in Penguin Modern Classics is We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a chilling dystopian forerunner and source  of inspiration for Orwell’s 1984.

As with just about all of the 1960s and 70s Penguin Modern Classics it has appropriate art work on the cover.

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1972 edition – “Suprematist Composition” by Casimir Malevich

Next I will present old standard “orange” Penguins of which I have a fair collection, and many have really stylish covers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Penguin Modern Classics 6–Irish & Latin American Classics

To start with Irish modern classics, there are only three represented in my collection. The first is a 1966 edition of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I vaguely recall was on the curriculum of my Literature course at university.

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1966 edition – photographs from the National Gallery of Ireland

The other two Irish novels are At Swim- Two- Birds by Flann O’Brien and Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime and other stories by Oscar Wilde.

obrien_birds1971 wilde_stories1974_wp frith_a private view 1881
1971 edition – “The Bus By The River” by Jack B Yeats 1974 edition – A Private View 1881” by W P Frith

As for South American novels I have of course Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths,  my introduction to his work, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez  which was also the first book of his that I read.

borges_labyrinths1972_portocarrero_la havane marquez_solitude1977_j c orozco_misery of the peasants
1972 edition – “La Havane” by Portocarrero 1977 edition – “Misery of the Peasants by J C Orozco

And finally for this post, two novels by Alejo Carpentier, a Swiss born Cuban writer, who was a major influence on  magic realist writers such as Marquez , Fuentes etc. I can’t remember if I ever read the two following novels, Explosion in a Cathedral and The Lost Steps, but these Penguin Modern Classics editions have wonderful surrealist covers.

carpentier_explosion1971_dali_tete raphaelesque eclatee carpentier_lost steppes1968_ernst_the great forest
1971 edition – “Tete Raphaelesque Eclatee” by Dali 1968 edition – “The Great Forest”
by Max Ernst

The next post will feature a miscellany of nationalities and the last of the Penguin Modern Classics in my personal library.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Penguin Modern Classics 5–American Classics

My modest collection of American writers published in the Penguin Modern Classics series begins with Ambrose Bierce’s ever popular Devil’s Dictionary. We could use some of his scepticism in these politically correct days.

William Faulkner is the next in alphabetical order, and I appear to have only his novel Sanctuary in the Modern Classics, though have another of his books in a standard Penguin edition.

bierce_devils dictionary1971_facetti_surprise in the house of masks faulkner_sanctuary1972_bernard perlin_the bar
1971 edition – “Surprise in the House of Masks” by Facetti 1972 edition – “The Bar” by Bernard Perlin

The sublime, in my opinion, F. Scott Fitzgerald is well represented in my library and I have several in both Modern Classic editions and standard editions. The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favourite books, and I consider it a perfect novel. No one writes party scenes with as much panache as Fitzgerald does.

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1968 edition – “Montparno’s Blues” by Kees Van Dongen 1967 edition – cover illustration by Virgil Burnett

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1968 edition – “Madame Bonnard” by Pierre Bonnard

A  lone Ernest Hemingway collection of short stories is all I have in the Modern Classics, but it has a great cover by Paul Hogarth.

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1964 edition – cover illustration by Paul Hogarth

Several of  the Penguins in my collection I acquired for the Literature course at University, and I recall Henry James’ Portrait of A Lady was one of the books on the curriculum. The others I no doubt purchased separately after taking a liking to his prose.

The ancient editions of Portrait of A Lady and Washington Square have cover illustrations by Philippe Jullian.

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1966 edition – cover art by Philippe Jullian 1965 edition – cover art by Philippe Jullian
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1966 edition – “Cup of Tea” by Mary Cassat 1966 edition – “Repose” by John Singer Sargent

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1969 edition – cover art by Atkinson Grimshaw

Next, three classic American novels - Jack Kerouac’s On The RoadJ. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men (& Cannery Row) by John Steinbeck.

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1972 edition – “The Athlete’s Dream” by Larry Rivers 1969 edition

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1973 edition – “Threshing” by Joe Jones

I have previously displayed the Berkley paperback editions of  the Edith Wharton novels in my collection. Below are two more published in the Penguin Modern Classics series.

wharton_house of mirth1979_frank weston benson_portrait of a lady wharton_innocence1974_sargent_the misses vickers
1979 edition – “Portrait of a Lady” by Frank Weston Benson 1974 edition – “The Misses Vickers” by John Singer Sargent

Finally for American classics, In The Money by William Carlos Williams.


1972 edition – detail from “Carnaval, 1924” by Francis Picabia

Coming up – Irish and Latin American modern classics

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Penguin Modern Classics 4 – German Classics

There are only four writers represented in my German modern classics, chief of which is Hermann Hesse. When I was a young thing, I identified with Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf , but these days laugh at my youthful naivety and feel a tad embarrassed about it. Still, I must admit, the Penguin Modern Classics covers are quite extraordinary.

I do not have a copy of his novel Siddhartha, but I have a wonderful memory of going to view the 1972 film of the novel to check out its counter cultural credentials for the film distributors (Roadshow)  in their private cinema, before they released it.

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1965 edition – cover art by Paul Klee 1972 edition – cover by Paul Klee  “Constructiv-Impressive”

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1972 edition – cover “Abbey Under The Oaks” by Caspar David Friedrich

Franz Kafka certainly needs no introduction, being one of  the most influential  writers  of the 20th century.  Haruki Murakami, Albert Camus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among others, admit to his influence on their work.

kafka_castle1966_g de chirico_enigma of the hour kafka_trial1966_lotte b prechner_ruins
1966 edition – cover “Enigma of the Hour” by D de Chirico 1966 edition – “Ruins” by Lotte B Prechner


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1967 edition – cover “Hibou” by Max Ernst

Alfred Kubin’s best known novel is The Other Side “a fantastic novel set in an oppressive imaginary land”. I’d forgotten I had this book. I vaguely recall reading it back in the 1970s, but can’t remember a thing about it.

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1973 edition – cover “Die Lachend Sphinx” by Kubin

Finally for the Germans, Thomas Mann, who was  also very popular back in the 1960s and 70s. For some reason I have two copies of his novel The Holy Sinner published in different decades. The most memorable of his novels for me is The Magic Mountain, but I have lost my copy of the book.

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1965 edition – cover art by Brian Wildsmith 1975 edition –cover “Ecco Homo” by Lois Corinth

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1971 edition – “Selbstbildnis Skellet” by Lois Corinth

Penguin Modern Classics will continue with classic American writers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Penguin Modern Classics 3 – French Classics

It has been decades since I last read most of the books in the Penguin Modern Classics series, so I can hardly remember what they were about. Whether I’ll ever get around to reading them again is questionable. Besides, having been tucked away on bookshelves for so many years, I dare say they would disintegrate upon opening; the glue that holds them together having well and truly dried out.

So first up in the French Modern Classics I present ancient paperbacks of Albert Camus. It’s amazing that I can still remember the opening sentences of The Outsider – “ Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure”

camus_outsider1970_jacques villon_r duchamp camus_plague1968_michael ayrton
1970 edition – cover “R. Duchamp” by Jacques Villon 1968 edition – cover by Michael Ayrton

Blaise Cedrars was Swiss born, but became a French citizen in 1916.  I have only one of his novels, that being  Moravagine.

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1979 edition – cover “Lucifer” by Thomas Hafner

Two early modern classics by well known French luminaries, Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau and Ripening Seed by Colette. I have a large collection of Colette’s books in Penguin editions, but Ripening Seed appears to be the only one I have in the Modern Classics series.

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1964 edition – cover image by Jean Cocteau 1961 Edition – no image credit


I must admit that the next book, Le Grand Meaulnes, the sole novel of Alain-Fournier, was a great favourite of mine when I was in my early twenties. It is one book I really must reread before I die.

I also have a hard cover edition (in French) with a lengthy introduction and biography of Fournier (in English) by Robert Gibson.

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1970 edition – cover “Small Meadows in Spring” by Alfred Sisley

The novels of André Gide are well represented in the Penguin Classics series and I appear to have four of them.

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1968 edition – cover “Les Fellans” by Van Dongen 1967 edition – cover by Giovanni Thermes
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1974 edition- cover “The Reader” by Matisse 1969 edition – cover “The Intellectuals” by T Garbari

Thérèse (Desqueyroux) is Francois Mauriac’s best known novel, chiefly for its unusual structure, which uses internal monologues to illuminate the thoughts of the characters.

Raymond Radiguet died at the young age of 20, but authored the scandalous (at the time) novel, Devil In The Flesh. Penguin included it their modern classics series in 1971.

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1975 edition – cover “Paysage avec personnage allonge” by Chaime Soutine 1971 edition – cover Lithograph by Valentine Hugo

And finally for French Modern Classics, Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of the The Little Prince.

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1969 edition – cover photo from Arabian American Oil Company

Next I’ll tackle German modern classics.