Books

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas (and others)

A beautiful new clothbound edition of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel of wrongful imprisonment, adventure and revenge. Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of the Château d'If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and becomes determined not only to escape but to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. A huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s, Dumas was inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment when writing his epic tale of suffering and retribution.

The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)

Henri Alain-Fournier (and others)

The Lost Estate is Robin Buss's translation of Henri Alain-Fournier's poignant study of lost love, Le Grand Meaulnes. This Penguin Classics edition also contains an introduction by Adam Gopnik.

When Meaulnes first arrives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when Meaulnes disappears for several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house - and his love for the beautiful girl hidden within it, Yvonne de Galais - his life has been changed forever. In his restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes, observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had. Poised between youthful admiration and adult resignation, Alain-Fournier's compelling narrator carries the reader through this evocative and unbearably poignant portrayal of desperate friendship and vanished adolescence.

Robin Buss's translation of Le Grand Meaulnes sensitively and accurately renders Alain-Fournier's poetically charged, expressive and deceptively simple style. In his introduction, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik discusses the life of Alain-Fournier, who was killed in the First World War after writing this, his only novel.

Henri Alban-Fournier (1886-1914), better known by the pseudonym Alain-Fournier, was born in La Chapelle d'Angillon, the son of a country school-master. He was educated at Brest and Paris, where he met the original Yvonne, who left a lasting impression on his life and work. Le Grand Meaulnes was published in 1912. Alan-Fournier joined the army as a Lieutenant in August 1914, and was killed in action on the Meuse less than a month later. Les Miracles, a volume of poems and essays, appeared posthumously in 1924.

If you liked Le Grand Meaulnes, you might enjoy Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education, also available in Penguin Classics.

'I read it for the first time when I was seventeen and loved every page. I find its depiction of a golden time and place just as poignant now as I did then'
Nick Hornby

On Suicide

Emile Durkheim (and others)

Emile Durkheim's On Suicide (1897) was a groundbreaking book in the field of sociology. Traditionally, suicide was thought to be a matter of purely individual despair but Durkheim recognized that the phenomenon had a social dimension. He believed that if anything can explain how individuals relate to society, then it is suicide: Why does it happen? What goes wrong? Why do certain social, religious or racial groups have higher incidences of suicide than others? As Durkheim explored these questions he became convinced that abnormally high or low levels of social integration lead to an increased likelihood of suicide. On Suicide was the result of his extensive research. Divided into three parts - individual reasons for suicide, social forms of suicide and the relation of suicide to society as a whole - Durkheim's revelations have fascinated, challenged and informed readers for over a century.

Thérèse Raquin

Émile Zola (and others)

Perhaps his most famous work, Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin is a dark and gripping story of lust, violence and guilt, set in the gloomy back streets of Paris. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with notes and an introduction by Robin Buss.

In the claustrophobic atmosphere of a dingy haberdasher's shop on the Passage du Pont-Neuf in Paris, Thérèse Raquin is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille. The numbing tedium of her life is suddenly shattered when she embarks on a turbulent affair with her husband's earthy friend Laurent, but their animal passion for each other soon compels the lovers to commit a crime that will haunt them forever. Thérèse Raquin caused a scandal when it appeared in 1867 and borught its twenty-seven-year-old author a notoriety that followed him throughout his life. Zola's novel is not only an uninhibited portrayal of adultery, madness and ghostly revenge, but also a devastating exploration of the darkest aspects of human existence.

Robin Buss's translation superbly conveys Zola's fearlessly honest and matter-of-fact style. In his introduction, he discusses Zola's life and literary career, and the influence of art, literature and science on his writing. This edition also includes the preface to the second edition of 1868, a chronology, further reading and notes.

Emile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of 20 novels which Zola wrote over a period of 22 years, including Au Bonheur des Dames (1883), The Beast Within (1890), Nana (1880), and The Drinking Den (1877).

If you enjoyed Thérèse Raquin, you might like Zola's Germinal, also available in Penguin Classics.

The Black Tulip

Alexandre Dumas (and others)

Set at the height of the "tulipomania" that gripped Holland in 17th century, this is the story of Cornelius van Baerle, a humble grower whose sole desire is to grow the perfect specimen of the tulip negra.
When his godfather is murdered, Cornelius finds himself caught up in the deadly politics of the time, imprisoned and facing a death sentence. His jailor's daughter Rosa, holds both the key to his survival and his chance to produce the ultimate tulip.

Modern Times

Jean-Paul Sartre (and others)

MODERN TIMES brings together an extraordinary collection of Sartrean gems, many of which have never been translated into English before. From writings on food and sex to a mini portrait of his great friend and rival, Albert Camus, the volume contains an amazing sweep of thematically organised writing. Amidst the grander set pieces on communism and the art of biography, are shorter and more revealing pieces on maternal love and masturbation.

The Princesse De Cleves

Madame Lafayette (and others)

Set towards the end of the reign of Henry II of France, The Princesse de Clèves (1678) tells of the unspoken, unrequited love between the fair, noble Mme de Clèves, who is married to a loyal and faithful man, and the Duc de Nemours, a handsome man most female courtiers find irresistible. Warned by her mother against admitting her passion, Mme de Clèves hides her feelings from her fellow courtiers, until she finally confesses to her husband - an act that brings tragic consequences for all. Described as France's first modern novel, The Princesse de Clèves is an exquisite and profound analysis of the human heart, and a moving depiction of the inseparability of love and anguish.

Biography

Robin Buss is a writer and translator who works for the Independent on Sunday and as television critic for the Times Literary Supplement. He has published on Vigny and Coteau and written three books on European cinema.