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South Wind

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  138 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
South Wind depicts a group of eccentric and even scandalous characters wiling away their time in a sunny Mediterranean resort. The novel takes place on Nepenthe, Douglas's thinly veiled version of Capri, an island retreat for pleasure-seekers since Roman times. In classical mythology, “nepenthe” was a medicine that caused one to forget melancholy and suffering; Douglas' co ...more
Paperback, 413 pages
Published by Dover Publications (first published 1917)
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Apr 08, 2015 Sketchbook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gilbert & Sullivan on Capri where the little-known author lived. Volcanic eruptions, an earthquake, a funeral and a festival keep the multi-cast pondering sex, religion, life. Advisories: 'Get rid of conventional notions, if you value your health' and 'The secret of happiness is curiousity.' The denizens include a scholar who can't decide if a relic is the thigh bone of a saint or the
tibia of a cow; a Wildean lady who wanders into polite murder; a teenage poet who laments that he has nothing
Andrew Schirmer
May 13, 2013 Andrew Schirmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nabokovians, eccentrics
Note: This is the longest review I've yet composed on Goodreads, but this is such an astounding work of genius, of learning and writer's craft, I feel it should be better-known. What follows is my small attempt to bring this about.

"... I glanced too, at the books; they were numerous, untidy, and miscellaneous. But one shelf was a little neater than the rest and here I noted the following sequence which for a moment seemed to form a vague musical phrase, oddly familiar: Hamlet, La Morte d'Arthur
Aug 15, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Panos Tserpes
Shelves: own, fiction
This is a really odd book. I think the fact that it was published in 1917 redeems it somewhat; it seems ahead of its time, and if it had been released after 1955 I probably would have hated it. It would have seemed more like Kingsley Amis or David Lodge than Evelyn Waugh. It is resolutely comical and transgressively clever, rather than nakedly reprobative. The author, Norman Douglas, was mainly a travel writer, and apparently a bit of a pederast, occasionally fleeing scandal and the authorities. ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-inventory
When I read reviews, I usually go to the negative ones first (more entertaining). And from what I can tell, those who dislike South Wind dislike it strongly, and for the following reasons: 1.) the language is difficult, 2.) the story lacks plot, and 3.) both the language and whatever passes for plot seems antiquated. People who love reading will shrug these off immediately. Difficult language? Ah, says the reader, the joy of learning new words, new languages, new innuendos! Besides, no one would ...more
Douglas's most famous novel, although almost unknown today, was popular when published in 1917. It was the first to exploit, using literary satire, the sensual pleasure island of Capri, here transparently disguised as the island of Nepenthe, named for the "drug of forgetfulness" from Greek mythology.

The real island has a very long recorded history. In AD 20, the Emperor Tiberius decided to leave Rome forever and to build a palace in Capri, and, according to Suetonius, "at last gave vent to all t
Mark Desrosiers
According to the resident expert who pressed this into my hand, this was one of Vlad Nabokov's favorite novels, and I can see why: there are some snarky scholarship and annotation parodies involving "Saint Dodekanus" and the fictional island of Nepenthe (i.e. Capri) which clearly inspired Pale Fire. But, wow, has this novel dated terribly... the prose is wooden, the "humor" is droll and pretentious, and all the moral/political/religious (mostly religious) targets of Douglas's wit are, y'know, ci ...more
Alex Sarll
Sep 07, 2012 Alex Sarll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful tale of life among the disreptutable expats on the Mediterranean island of Nepenthe (commonly believed to represent Capri, but possibly the ideal of which Capri is a reflection). There is a plot, of sorts, but the attraction is more in "a frolicsome perversity", in spending a few days on the beaches and taverns with these drunks and monomaniacs, hearing their grand schemes and thoughts on life, spying on the minutiae of their many sins - obliquely though they are often described. Man ...more
Sheri Horton
Feb 10, 2011 Sheri Horton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written book about nothing. Think of it as a classical Seinfeld.
Seth Holler
Before beginning: In a review of one of Douglas's later novels, Waugh wrote that in SOUTH WIND he had "achieved, with superb facility, the only great satirical novel of his generation." So let's just see what we've got.

A third of the way through: the chapters are organized casually, as is, occasionally, the narration ("Napoleon, or somebody, once remarked 'L'etat, c'est moi.'"). But the story has a definite shape; we meet various characters in conversation with others, then (eventually) get thei
Perry Whitford
Oct 26, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Vices. My dear bishop! Under a sky like this."

Yes, under a sky like that. Vices, vices, and more vices. That azure sky, assisted by the restless winds of the sirocco, the Mediterranean mentality, and a community of morally dubious ex-patriated residents made the island of Capri a hothouse for vice in the early 20th century.

It was also a hothouse for high culture and the finer things in life. Artists, duchesses, poets and counts, they came from all over Europe to the playground of Tiberius. Norm
Edwin Lang
Jul 20, 2014 Edwin Lang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014

Norman Douglas noted that ‘Madame Steynlin (unmarried but incurably romantic and a minor character) called (her lover, another minor character) her Little Peter, or in his more expansive moments, Peter the Great’ and that served to define what we were reading here: on Nepenthe, during the spring when the south winds blows strongly, nothing is sacred, especially reputations and as Keith, polyglot (and ironically, afraid of growing old and of death) chastises Mr. Heard saying “It strikes me that y
Lots of Douglas's ideas, occasionally expressed in playfully subversive and ostentatiously exaggerated manner by several idiosyncratic characters, oftentimes retorting if not contradicting each other, appeal to me to a large extent. A point could be made that I've only skin-deep, if any, acquaintance with the antique literature, and thus am easily led astray by anything even remotely resembling rhetoric and pith of ancient wisdom related in succinct, slightly streamlined style. Without a doubt t ...more
Oct 16, 2013 Philipc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
South Wind was published in 1917, while war raged in the battlefields of the the north; against war it makes a call for civilisation, culture and peace. Withdraw from the madness of mass thinking, create your own moral code, says Douglas in the person of his alter ego, Keith.

The structure is complex and simple at the same time. Not much happens, except that a murder is committed. The importance of the murder is the effect it has on the bishop, Keith's foil, who comes to understand Keith's messa
Allan Clark
Jan 21, 2016 Allan Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Southwind is a delightfully ingenious comic novel about the island of Nepenthe to which an Anglican Bishop has arrived fresh from a long missionary stint in Africa, only to find all his cherished notions of religion and morality challenged by the local culture and its personalities as well as a recurrent south wind inducing in him a spirit of indolence and relaxed standards. Nepenthe is based on Capri where Norman Douglas lived for a time. Douglas's wit and humor are subtle and clever even thoug ...more
A tale of a mediterranean island and various foreigners who have ended up there. Its a veritable paradise although with a dark edge. The climate induces a relaxation of the morals and many people who come there are fleeing their past.
As the story progresses we learn more about each of these characters and their background aswell as the rather bloody history of the island itself.
The author really captures that sense of freedom, change and unreality you tend to get when you go on holiday. There'
Mar 03, 2010 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because Time magazine once equated this novel with Candide and with The Odyssey, I found it, read 15 chapters, then read the first and last paragraphs of the remaining 35 chapters. I then read and admired Candide and am enjoying The Odyssey. All three do involve adventure in exotic locales far from home, where the weather affects (controls?) people, but I don't see this one on the top shelf with the other two. Interesting try, though, for an English travel writer in 1917. His life started in 186 ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great language and characterization throughout. Would be a classic if the author had gone beyond the skeletal plot...but it picks up a bit in the second half. In parts it feels like a (much lesser) version of The Canterbury Tales...everyone reciting tales and monologues without interaction or development, but this isn't out of place given the fictional island context. [return][return]This was my first eBook for the nook...a great reading experience! Also can't beat the price (FREE!) at manybooks ...more
Karen Maskarinec
Intriguing....what actually happened? Or was it intented to be like real life in that way, that one is never quite sure about anyone else?
Phil Barker
Character sketches and anecdotes about a mixture of ex-pats, tourists and locals on an Italian island c.a. 1910. Mostly pointless.
Wes rated it liked it
Jul 27, 2016
Ruth Brown
Ruth Brown rated it really liked it
Apr 29, 2012
Luis rated it it was amazing
Apr 27, 2015
Mary rated it really liked it
Jul 16, 2012
Michael Dierickx
Michael Dierickx rated it really liked it
Oct 20, 2014
D. Rae
D. Rae rated it it was ok
Mar 17, 2013
Mikhail rated it did not like it
Dec 15, 2014
Stuart Ferguson
Stuart Ferguson rated it it was amazing
Apr 04, 2013
Melissa Kosmicki
Melissa Kosmicki rated it it was amazing
Aug 23, 2013
Peter rated it really liked it
Nov 19, 2012
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Norman Douglas was born in Thüringen, Austria (his surname was registered at birth as Douglass). His mother was Vanda von Poellnitz. His father was John Sholto Douglas (1845-1874), manager of a cotton mill, who died when Norman was about six. Norman was brought up mainly at Tilquhillie, Deeside, his paternal home. He was educated at Uppingham School England, and then at a grammar school in Karlsru ...more
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“History deals with situations and figures not imaginary but real. It demands therefore a combination of qualities unnecessary to the poet or writer of romance - glacial judgment coupled with fervent sympathy. The poet may be an uninspired illiterate, the romance-writer an uninspired hack. Under no circumstances can either of them be accused of wrongdoing or deceiving the public, however incongruous their efforts. They write well or badly, and there the matter ends. The historian, who fails in his duty, deceives the reader and wrongs the dead.” 2 likes
“I grow more intolerant of fools as the years roll on. If I had a son, I was saying, I would take him from school at the age of fourteen, not a moment later, and put him for two years in a commercial house. Wake him up; make an English citizen of him. Teach him how to deal with men as men, to write a straightforward business letter, manage his own money and gain some respect for those industrial movements which control the world. Next, two years in some wilder part of the world, where his own countrymen and equals by birth are settled under primitive conditions, and have formed their rough codes of society. The intercourse with such people would be a capital invested for life. The next two years should be spent in the great towns of Europe, in order to remove awkwardness of manner, prejudices of race and feeling, and to get the outward forms of a European citizen. All this would sharpen his wits, give him more interest in life, more keys to knowledge. It would widen his horizon. Then, and not a minute sooner, to the University, where he would go not as a child but a man capable of enjoying its real advantages, attend lectures with profit, acquire manners instead of mannerisms and a University tone instead of a University taint.” 1 likes
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