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The Marble Faun
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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?Describ[es] Rome and Italian scenes as few others have.? ?Anthony Trollope
'any narrative of human action and adventure - whether we call it history or Romance - is certain to be a fragile handiwork, more easily rent than mended' The fragility - and the durability - of human life and art dominate this story of American expatriates in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Befriended by Donatello, a young Italian with the classical grace of the 'Marble Faun', Miriam, Hilda, and Kenyon find their pursuit of art taking a sinister turn as Miriam's unhappy past precipitates the present into tragedy. Hawthorne's 'International Novel' dramatizes the confrontation of the Old World and the New and the uncertain relationship between the 'authentic' and the 'fake', in life as in art. The author's evocative descriptions of classic sites made The Marble Faun a favourite guidebook to Rome for Victorian tourists, but this richly ambiguous symbolic romance is also the story of a murder, and a parable of the Fall of Man. As the characters find their civilized existence disrupted by the awful consequences of impulse, Hawthorne leads his readers to question the value of Art and Culture and addresses the great evolutionary debate which was beginning to shake Victorian society.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1860. The novel's central metaphor is a statue of a faun by Praxiteles that Hawthorne had seen in Florence. In the faun's fusing of animal and human characteristics he finds an allegory of the fall of man from amoral innocence to the knowledge of good and evil, a theme that had usually been assumed in his earlier works but that now received direct and philosophic treatment. The faun of the novel is Donatello, a passionate young Italian who makes the acquaintance of three American artists, Miriam, Kenyon, and Hilda, who are spending time in Rome. When Donatello kills a man who has been shadowing Miriam, he is wracked by guilt until he is arrested by the police and imprisoned. Both of the women are tainted by guilt.
From the Publisher
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Inside Flap Copy
Hawthorne?s final novel is a provocative look at American artists abroad and a groundbreaking exploration of the influence of European thought on American morality that anticipates the work of Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, among others. The story of the mysterious, tormented Miriam, her friends Kenyon and Hilda, their alluring Italian acquaintance, the faunlike Donatello, and the crime that irrevocably links them all is, says Peter Robb, ?a surprising drama, one that recalls nothing so much as American noir of a hundred years later . . . driven by the powerful and unfaltering engines of sex and violence.?
This Modern Library Paperback Classic uses the definitive text as prepared for The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
From the Back Cover
“Describ[es] Rome and Italian scenes as few others have.” —Anthony Trollope
About the Author
Susan Manning has previously edited Scott's Quentin Durward, Washington Irving's Sketchbook and Crevecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer for OWC. Her books include The Puritan-Provincial Vision (CUP, 1990) and Fragments of Union (Palgrave, 2001).
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