The Aspern Papers and Other Stories

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‘There’s no baseness I wouldn’t commit for Jeffrey Aspern’s sake.’

The poet Aspern, long since dead, has left behind some private papers. They are jealously guarded by an old lady, once his mistress and muse, a recluse in an old palazzo in Venice, tended by her ingenuous niece. A predatory critic is determined to seize them. What can he make of the younger woman? What are his motives? What are the papers worth and what is he prepared to pay?

In all four stories collected here, including ‘The Death of the Lion’, ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, and ‘The Birthplace’, the figure of the artist is central. Extraordinarily prophetic, James explores the emergent new cult of the writer as celebrity, and asks, who cares about the work for itself? Can the man behind the artist ever truly be known, and does our knowledge explain the act of creativity? This new edition includes extracts from James’s Prefaces and Notebooks which shed light on the
genesis of the stories.

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