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The Aspern Papers

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  2,238 ratings  ·  204 reviews
...had taken Mrs. Prest into my confidence; in truth without her I should have made but little advance, for the fruitful idea in the whole business dropped from her friendly lips. It was she who invented the short cut, who severed the Gordian knot.
Paperback, 96 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published September 29th 1888)
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I generally do not like to discuss the plot in a review. And I will not in this one either. But apart from delighting in James’ prose and in his superb ability to characterize and develop personalities, reading this novella has made me think about what makes a good story.

For I was captured by the suspense James created out of a relatively simple situation.

What makes a good plot? It certainly needs a structure, a kind of frame that gives it independence and self-sufficiency. That means it demands
As much as it would please me to discover that my two favorite novelists form an apostolic succession, I must admit that Nabokov is completely spot-on in his criticism of The Aspern Papers, about which he complains in 1941 letter to Edmund Wilson:

Yesterday I read The Aspern Papers. No. He writes with a very sharp nib and the ink is very pale and there is very little of it in his inkpot…The style is artistic but it is not the style of an artist…He has charm (as the weak blond prose of Turgenev ha
Lynne King
I have very mixed feelings about this novella. I have never read any of Henry James’ books before but upon advice it was suggested that I start with one of his novellas. So I decided upon this book as there are only eighty pages and it seemed as good a place as ever to start.

I actually don’t like Venice as a place and so I’m sure I’ll be called a philistine. I went in the month of December, many years ago, with an aged aunt which did not auger well. It was windy, the pigeons in St Mark’s square
Ben Loory
the more i read of henry james, the more i think he may be my favorite writer. it's weird, because he seems to be exactly all those things i most despise in writers-- he's long-winded, slow-moving, mostly humorless, always deeply embedded in real places, real people, real history, the real world-- really, i don't feel like i should like him at all! but then, somehow, underneath all of that, there is always in his writing a deep sense of mystery-- not just about the events in his stories, but abo ...more
Una nouvelle maravillosa. De Henry James solo había leído The Turn of the Screw (1898), un relato de atmósfera fantasmagórica donde el retrato psicológico tiene mucho peso, igual que en The Aspern Papers (1888). Las solteronas (tía y sobrina) que viven enclaustradas cual carmelitas en un palacete en Venecia están magníficamente descritas, y su inquilino, el editor norteamericano obsesionado por conseguir los papeles del poeta Jeffrey Aspern, es su contrapunto perfecto. Ese trío forma un triángul ...more
I just re-read Henry James' novella the "Aspern Papers," again a second time after thirty years. It was first recommended to me in 1983 by Jean van Heijenoort, Leon Trotsky's secretary and, after the murder, his archivist, as the best depiction of an archivist's passion for finding the papers of a "great man." Even the first time around I certainly appreciated the fine description of a collector's monomania. While the story was written in 1887, I've seen modern archivists turn themselves inside ...more
Justin Evans
I love late James, but there's also a lot to be said for this sweet spot in the middle period. The sentences unfurl in a slightly less complicated way, the ideas are more evident, the characters less opaque, their thoughts less interminable. The Aspern Papers is my ideal beach read: I can lie back and enjoy the plot and paragraphs, I don't have to parse the language, and at the end I still feel like I've done my brain some good and become a better person. Also a very Venetian book; I hope to rea ...more
To get what you want, would you pay a price -- or bolt?
James handles the sexuality v sedately, as expected. But it's compelling nonetheless. And sex is a metaphor for Anything. I've now read 3xs.
Ben Rutter
Classic James: you climb a hundred unremarkable pages to watch a single painful, surprising scene unfold.
Henry James es uno de mis autores favoritos, pero la relación es complicada. Por un lado, lo amo porque convierte argumentos que parecen ser simples (sean realistas o no) en una historia de suspenso. Por el otro, lo odio por sus finales y porque siempre hay algo que no nos cuenta, algo que subyace a las palabras o se escapa entre ellas. Tengo más razones, pero estas le conciernen a la novela en cuestión. Los papeles de Aspern intriga, a pesar de que gire demasiado sobre un mismo eje (para mi g ...more
This Roman a clef novelette is based on the posthumous pursuit of Shelley's papers from his former very close friend (and possibly lover), Claire Clairmont. In The Aspern Papers an unnamed editor of the papers of deceased poet Jeffrey Aspern weasels himself into the home of Aspern's former mistress and subject of many of his poems, seeking to obtain from her papers (the nature of which is not given but presumably means letters, diaries, unpublished poems, or the like) which she has and has for ...more
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For once the book Blurb here on GR does a good job of prefacing this book, so I won't take the time to repeat that. If you like Henry James verbose yet provocative writing style, then you won't be disappointed. James was fond of this short novel, ranking it ahead of The Turn of the Screw.The use of Venice as the setting for this novel was a nice touch that fit this story perfectly.
Aug 06, 2008 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think they hate Henry James
'Hypocrisy, duplicity are my only chance. I'm sorry for it, but there's no baseness I wouldn't commit for Jeffrey Aspern's sake.'

So says the unnamed narrator of Henry James' The Aspern Papers, a literary scholar who is writing a book about the fictional poet Jeffrey Aspern (loosely based on either Keats or Browning, depending on whose theories you choose to believe). At the beginning of the novella, the narrator discovers that Juliana Bordereau, to whom the poet addressed some of his most beaut
Stephen Durrant
I purchased a copy of this book on a recent trip to Venice. It was advertised as Henry James' description of Venice, a city he loved . . . a sort of aid to travellers. Well, not quite. "The Aspern Papers" is a brilliant novella concerning a literary biographer eager to obtain papers about a great American poet presumably left to lover well over a half century earlier. What ensues is a psychological dance between the three central characters, the narrator--i.e., the literary biographer--, the ver ...more
An enjoyable reading in a very warm afternoon.

Free download at Gutenberg Project

A movie The Lost Moment (1947) was made on this book and it is available at You Tube, with Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead.
Fatih Balkış

Henry James’in yaşamı boyunca mektuplarında, önsözlerinde dile getirdiği bir şey var. ‘Tohum’ adını verdiği bu kavram edebiyatın özünü oluşturan bir başlangıç noktasını işaret ediyor. 1874’te Longman’s Magazine yayımlanan ve roman sanatı üzerine onun en ünlü makalelerinden biri olan yazıda tohum kavramını şöyle açıklıyor:
“İnsanın deneyimlerinden yola çıkarak yazması gerektiğini söylemek hem mükemmel bir şeydir hem de aynı ölçüde anlamsız. Esin bulduğunu varsaydığımız kişi (yazar) böyle bir söz k
Hmm, what to say. I guess I enjoyed the book, although for such a singular, focused plot, it could have been even shorter than it was. The narrator reminded me of fandom, of hard-core fans who are so obsessed with their object of infatuation that they'll cast aside all scruples to try to get closer to their idol. If this were set in modern day, he would have stalked the old woman on facebook, twitter, befriended any of her relations or old friends to further his imagined connection to her and th ...more
Tras leer “Los papeles de Aspern”, me parece inadmisible e insólito que el reconocimiento a las aportaciones que Henry James hizo a la literatura universal llegara muchas décadas después de que feneciera. Sergio Pitol teoriza –en el prólogo a la edición de Lectorum, en 2002– que ello se debe a que la obra de este gran autor “no tenía nada que oliera a rebelión”, que sus descubrimientos “fueron realizados sigilosa, callada, neutramente”. Aun así, no concibo que ni los propios escritores contempor ...more
The Nomadic
The Aspern Papers is a novella written by Henry James, originally published in
The Atlantic Monthly in 1888. It is the story or rather the quest of an American editor - he is also the unnamed narrator of the story - to obtain a collection of letters by the American Romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern.

He believes that Juliana Bordereau, an elderly and ill lady who lives in Venice in a dilapidated old palazzo, with her spinster niece Miss Tina, in “obscurity” and “almost on nothing”, is in possession of

In 1991 a Romantic scolar named Marion Kingston Stocking, came across a series of notebooks.
Those notebooks were the transcription of the conversations (that took place in Florence) between Edward Silsbee (a retired american sea capitan) and the legendary seventy year old Clair Clairmont.

Miss Clairmont needs no introduction; her life itself is a remarkable statement to female freedom.
She was the daughter of William Godwin, step sister to Mary Wollstonecraft (who later become P.B. Shelley's secon
The Aspern Papers is an outstanding novella, not quite as spine tingling as The Turn of the Screw, but still it manages to build suspense around a simple plot of a literary critic masquerading as a lodger in the attempt to get the letters that a famous American poet, Jeffrey Aspern, wrote to an older woman living in an old palace in Venice with her niece. The novel beautifully describes the three main characters--with Venice as a beautifully described fourth character lurking not too far in the ...more
This is a wonderful novella, that deals with (among other things) a very contaporary theme- issue of privacy. It is filled with suspense up to the very last page. The author ability to greate suspense is quite impressive, but he does not stop at that as his writing is so much more then creating anxiety and uncertainty...There is this ambiguity to his writing that I always felt to be both attractive and repulsive. It is as if there is some message that can never be fully grasped no matter how muc ...more
In his preface to "The Aspern Papers" Henry James writes that he got the idea for the story from rumors he heard while living in Florence that Jane Clairmont, the cousin of Mary Shelley and the mistress of Lord Byron, now an elderly lady was residing in Florence also living a reclusive life and guarding a stash of love letters from Byron. There were also rumors of a young woman living with her who periodically had some sort of behavioural problems, though exactly what those were could only be sp ...more
What can I say, this is Henry James after all. I was surprised that this was based on a true story and think that the Venice locale is an improvement on Florence. The story retains the tinge of the eerie which sometimes flavors James. Am I wrong to think that there is a bit of Hawthorne in this novella, as James did know the work of Hawthorne well. The scenes between the narrator and Miss Tita have genuine tension. The wraith like, elderly Miss Bordereau acts the role of Greek chorus.
grazie a questa bellissima edizione con testo a fronte, anche stavolta mi sono goduta la raffinatissima scrittura di henry james che, sapientemente, costruisce una storia conturbante ambientata in una venezia nascosta e decadente. ho seguito con passione le mosse del protagonista, alla ricerca di un misterioso e preziosissimo carteggio e la sua lotta tra desiderio e integrità, amando i protagonisti di questo breve ma intenso romanzo.
A powerful novella about an amateur con artist trying to scam a paranoid old woman and her pitifully naive niece out of some valuable documents once penned by a renowned poet. There's nothing complicated about the plot, but the characters are memorable and vividly rendered, and it keeps you in suspense as to who will end up taking advantage of who when all is said and done. Moral conundrums abound. James is a powerful storyteller, and thankfully his coma-inducing introduction to this piece is no ...more
Sort of creepy novella about a dude that goes to Venice and connives his way into renting a room with the lover of a famous deceased author. He is seeking to obtain the papers of the author so he can publish them. Disturbing morals on the part of the dude. Creepy obsessions on the part of the old ladies. Oddly, it is a very similar tale to what actually happened to the Henry James papers.
Un journaliste américain, passionné par les oeuvres et la vie du poète Jeffrey Aspern, retrouve la trace d’une ancienne maîtresse et muse du poète. Miss Bordereau est désormais une vieille femme, recluse dans un palais vénitien en ruines, mais le narrateur est persuadé qu’elle possède une correspondance qui serait un témoignage inestimable du poète disparu. Prêt à tout pour se procurer ces papiers, il tente sous un faux nom d’approcher la vieille dame et sa nièce, Miss Tina, parvient à devenir l ...more
This is my first foray into the works of Henry James and I read it concurrently with The Turn of the Screw, my preference for the second novel has perhaps affected my review of this one.

It’s certainly an interesting tale, and James makes excellent use of his characters to build suspense. I think that’s why I rated it three stars, I had far too many unanswered questions at the end of the work, and I was annoyed. Where did Tita’s money come from? Why did the Aunt refuse to speak of Aspern…etc. I l
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Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the ...more
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The Portrait of a Lady The Turn of the Screw Daisy Miller The Wings of the Dove Washington Square

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“Her face was not young, but it was simple; it was not fresh, but it was mild. She had large eyes which were not bright, and a great deal of hair which was not 'dressed,' and long fine hands which were--possibly--not clean.” 5 likes
“That was originally what I had loved him for: that at a period when our native land was nude and crude and provincial, when the famous 'atmosphere' it is supposed to lack was not even missed, when literature was lonely there and art and form akmost impossible, he had found the means to live and write like one of the first; to be free and general and not at all afraid; to feel, understand, and express everything.” 1 likes
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