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Selected Writings

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Gerard de Nerval (1808-1855), a contemporary of Poe, De Quincey, Gogol, and Heine, introduced into French literature a mode of writing rooted in German romanticism yet already recognizably modernist in its explorations of the uncertain borderlines between dream and reality, irony and madness, autobiography and fiction.. "This selection of writings - the first such ...more
Paperback, 406 pages
Published January 28th 1999 by Penguin Classics (first published 1855)
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J.
The world literature landmark Faust was first translated into English from Goethe's German original in 1821. Illustrious Brit prodigies Coleridge and Shelley both made attempts with varying degrees of success. In 1828 it was translated into French, by Gérard de Nerval, who by all accounts, Goethe's included, nailed it. At the age of twenty.

When it came to his own work, Nerval had a wrenchingly different arc; early success with poetry and plays led to important associations, Victor Hugo and
...more
Rodney
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My copy's titled Selected Writings, as pictured here, not Selected Prose, so Penguin may have excised the dense, enigmatic poems of "The Chimeras" for this new edition, in which de Nerval virtually invented literary modernism. Even without them, the book's a must-have. Aurelia is one of the most touching accounts of schizophrenia ever written, and Sylvie is a gorgeous proto-Proustian hymn to memory and loss. (I wish there were more of his travel writings among the Ottomans though.)

De Nerval's
...more
Peter Croft
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Don't be misled by the size of this volume (approx. 450 pages)...it contains multitudes. Like most people I came across Nerval through his impenetrable sonnets, being a big fan of 19th century French writing I was curious to see what his prose writings were like. After being spellbound the entire way through this treasure trove I find myself wondering why he is not better known. In fact in my humble estimation he should be considered one of the great writers of 19th century Europeans.

This
...more
lisa_emily
Dec 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the tragically undone
Shelves: tales, phantasmagoria
The myth of Nerval: eccentric, careless, tortured. Reading the writing of this eccentric, you walk away dazed by the multi-dimensional, jeweled imagination he carried within himself. The themes of Nerval’s stories are typical: desired love, lost love, phantasmagoric worlds and exotic places. However, you sense one who has wandered so far away that there can be no return. Nerval pursues his dreamt muse who forever eludes capture into words.
Jim
This review is only for one of the novelettes in this collection, entitled Sylvie by Gérard de Nerval.

The narrator is a feckless young man who falls in love easily but cannot ever "close the deal." In this story, he goes to the haunts of his youth in Valois, where he takes up with the beautiful Sylvie, who, alas, is pledged to another. Still, he returns to see her married to the local pastry cook, with small children running around. He muses, "This way lay happiness, perhaps, and yet...." Never
...more
Graychin
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m new to Gerard de Nerval, but in reading him it was almost immediately clear to me that he must have been a big influence on Flaubert (especially the Flaubert of Three Tales and The Temptation of St Anthony). It would also be interesting to compare de Nerval to Thomas De Quincey and Robert Louis Stevenson, among others.

This is a wonderful collection and it includes (from what I understand) all of de Nerval’s most well-known work. Silvie (which Proust admired) and Aurelia, a memoir of his very
...more
Jules
Mar 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
He is brilliant and amazing but rarely read outside of France. I highly recommend checking this out. If you do end up reading any of his stuff, tell me! I need someone to talk to about this mind-bending writing.
Quicksilver Quill
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
From the Pen of a Poetic Soul

Poor Gerard, his was an unfortunate fate. But the sad, mad man of letters and adventurer left behind some truly remarkable stories and verse. So in a strange way—though his life seems to be a study in sorrow—somehow, despite the tragedy of it all, artistically he triumphed in the end.

For the most part Gerard de Nerval: Selected Writings serves up a sumptuous literary banquet. Who could forget the haunting and tender “Sylvie”, Nerval’s masterpiece of melancholic
...more
Lily
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Some truly gorgeous musings and reflections about dreams, time, and the ineffable. Nerval's self-awareness about longing and ideals is resonant and tender, his use of women in his life as grand metaphors isn't as problematic as it sounds, but builds to a satisfying uncertainty and enigma about beauty, history, illusion, and life itself. Part flaneur, part troubled and in a fugue state, Nerval's prose is haunted and Proustian. The translations of the poems weren't as impressive as I assume they ...more
Sam
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: do you like Vita Nuova?
Shelves: library
I may never have read this book without also rereading Dante's "Vita Nuova," as I've done these past two days. I would much recommend either. I've two or three translations of "Sylvie" but no others with the daguerreotype cover. Nerval had a pet lobster he leashed during walks.
Tom Newth
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
dreamy, narcotic, mythopoetic.
Lefevre Serpault
impossible de s'en lasser
Mark
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Best Nerval in English! Sieburth is a translator of genius.
Zara
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
worth a shot. everyone should know where decadence emerges...
Andrew
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
I love the cover of the Exact Change AURELIA edition, but this is a remarkable book overflowing with page after page of amazing texts
Muzzy
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Nerval is one of those writers I enjoy reading about more than I enjoy reading his work.
Takipsilim
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Well-conceived collection of the various writings of one of Romanticism's most talented madmen.
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Gérard de Nerval was the nom-de-plume of the French poet, essayist and translator Gérard Labrunie, one of the most essentially Romantic French poets.
“Even as it clouds our corporeal vision, intoxication clarifies our spiritual vision. The mind, set free from the heavy bondage of the body, flees away like a prisoner whose guard has fallen asleep, leaving the keys at the prison gate.” 4 likes
“A serious bibliophile never lends his books. In fact he does not even read his books, for fear of wearing them out.” 3 likes
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