Tuesday, May 9, 2017

7 June - The Aspern Papers

Having had a break from the group for one month, I hope that you will enjoy reuniting and discovering a play based on a novella by Henry James.  This was originally published in a magazine in 1888 and is one of James's best known works.

The Aspern Papers is based on the letters Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Mary Shelley's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who saved them until she died. 

Set in VeniceThe Aspern Papers demonstrates James's ability to generate suspense while never neglecting the development of his characters.

James (a very private man) examines the conflicts involved when a biographer seeks to pry into the intimate life of his subject. In the novel James paints the nameless narrator of The Aspern Papers as "publishing scoundrel", but also generates sympathy for the narrator as he tries to work the papers loose from Juliana, who is presented as greedy, domineering and unappealing.  

In 1959 Michael Redgrave adapted the book for the stage.  In the original the narrator was nameless, but in this adaptation he is Henry Jarvis: can there be any doubt that the initials are intended. Redgrave played Jarvis in his adaptation.


Henry Jarvis (HJ)
The narrator, an American writer and biographer of Jeffrey Aspern
Mrs Prest
HJ's old friend in Venice
Miss Juliana Bordereau
Aspern’s former lover, an American living in seclusion in Venice
Miss Tina Bordereau
Miss Bordereau's niece
HJ's manservant
Juliana Bordereau’s maid

James, painted by John Singer Sargent

Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson in 1953

The Redgraves in 1959. From left: Vanessa, Rachel, Micahel, Corin, Lynn

Henry James OM (15 April 1843 – 28 February 1916)
James was an American-born British writer and is regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. 
He is best known for a number of novels showing Americans encountering Europe and Europeans. He claimed that a text must first and foremost be realistic and contain a representation of life that is recognisable to its readers. Good novels, to James, show life in action and are, most importantly, interesting.
In addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel, biography, autobiography, and criticism, and wrote plays. James alternated between America and Europe for the first twenty years of his life; eventually he settled in England, becoming a British subject in 1915, one year before his death. James was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911, 1912, and 1916.

Sir Michael  Redgrave CBE (20 March 1908 – 21 March 1985) 

Redgrave is perhaps best known as an English stage and film actor, but he was also a director, manager and author.
Redgrave was married to the actress Rachel Kempson for 50 years from 1935 until his death, and they headed a theatrical family.  Their children Vanessa (b. 1937), Corin (1939–2010) and Lynn Redgrave (1943–2010), and their grandchildren: Natasha (1963–2009), Joely Richardson (b. 1965) and Jemma (b. 1965) are also involved in theatre or film as actors. Their grandson Carlo Gabriel Nero is a screenwriter and film director; only Luke Redgrave has taken a path outside the theatre.
Lynn wrote a one-woman play for herself called Shakespeare for My Father. She was nominated for Broadway's Tony Award for this role. She traced her love for Shakespeare as a way of following and finding her often absent father.

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