'A great writer...she is what happened after Bloomsbury...the link that connects Virginia Woolf with Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark' Victoria Glendinning
Elizabeth Bowen's account of a time spent in Rome is no ordinary guidebook but an evocation of a city - its history, its architecture and, above all, its atmosphere. She describes the famous classical sites, conjuring from the ruins visions of former inhabitants and their often bloody activities and speculates about the immense noise of ancient Rome, the problems caused by the Romans' dining posture, and the Roman temperament. She evokes the city's moods - by day, when it is characterised by golden sunlight, and at night, when the blaze of the moon 'annihilates history'.
About the Author
Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin in 1899, the only child of an Irish lawyer and landowner. She was educated at Downe House School in Kent. Her book Bowen's Court (1942) is the history of her family and their house in County Cork, and Seven Winters (1943) contains reminiscences of her Dublin childhood. In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, who held an appointment with the BBC and who died in 1952. She travelled a good deal, dividing most of her time between London and Bowen's Court, which she inherited.
Elizabeth Bowen is considered by many to be one of the most distinguished novelists of the twentieth century. Her first book, a collection of short stories, Encounters, appeared in 1923, followed by another, Ann Lee's, in 1926. The Hotel (1927) was her first novel, and was followed by The Last September (1929), Joining Charles (1929), another book of short stories, Friends And Relations (1931), To The North (1932), The Cat Jumps (short stories, 1934), The House In Paris (1935), The Death Of The Heart (1938), Look at All Those Roses (short stories, 1941), The Demon Lover (short stories, 1945), The Heat Of The Day (1949), Collected Impressions (essays, 1950), The Shelborne (1951), A World Of Love (1955), A Time In Rome (1960), Afterthought (essays, 1962), The Little Girls (1964), A Day in the Dark (1965) and her last book Eva Trout (1969).
She was awarded the CBE in 1948, and received honorary degrees from Trinity College, Dublin in 1949, and from Oxford University in 1956. In the same year she was appointed Lacy Martin Donnelly Fellow at Bryn Mawr College in the United States. The Royal Society of Literature made her a Companion of Literature in 1965. Elizabeth Bowen died in 1973.
"A still ludicrously underrated genius of 20th-century British-Irish writing" -
"One of the last century's greatest woman writers" - Guardian
"Her writings convey the flavour of literary London in the Thirties and Forties" - Observer
"A matchless writer" - Independent
Born in Dublin in 1899, Elizabeth Bowen moved in elite literary circles and is perhaps best known for her novel The Death of the Heart. In this memoir, first published in 1960, she describes with a novelist's touch her experience of a season spent in the Eternal City. The result is most emphatically not a guidebook - the potential tourist should look elsewhere - but rather an atmospheric meditation in which she shares her 'loverlike ambiguous taste for Rome'. The book takes some getting into, but perseverance is rewarded with an intriguing collection of observations on architecture and history. Anyone who has walked through the Forum pondering its lost ancient wonders will be moved by Bowen's description: 'Dregs of echoes have seeped down into the cracks in the sunken pavements; the ripple of excavations up the long valley is glacier-still, now and for evermore. The glare from above, so annulling elsewhere, falls here on nothing it can annul: rather, it gives void porticoes, unequal columns, sagging ascents of steps additional hardness, which becomes them.' Elsewhere Bowen considers the effects of Roman reclining on the digestive system, and evokes life in ancient Rome after dark, when the wagons and chariots prohibited during the day would be unleashed on a city attempting to sleep. She is equally marvellous when imagining the duty of a Vestal Virgin, painting a vivid picture of a young woman struggling to stave off unconsciousness while 'hypnotized by the flame's flutter' and listening to the furtive night-time noises of an insomniac metropolis. Much more than mere 'scribblings on the margins' of a guidebook, Bowen's reflections on Rome are both erudite and idiosyncratic. Now available to a wider audience in this Vintage Classics edition, they will awaken a new appreciation of an eternally fascinating city. (Kirkus UK)
Series: Vintage Classics Ser.
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 6th March 2003
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.0 x 1.5
Weight (kg): 0.17