The Queen's Necklace (Pushkin Blues) (Paperback)
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In August 1785, Paris buzzed with a scandal that had everything—an eminent churchman, a female fraudster, a part-time prostitute and the hated Queen herself. Its centrepiece was the most expensive diamond necklace ever assembled, and the tangle of fraud, folly, blindness and self-delusion it provoked. The humiliation the affair brought on the royal family contributed to their appalling deaths in the Revolution just four years later.
In this unusual, witty and often surprising version of the story, the great Hungarian novelist Antal Szerb takes the narrative as a standpoint from which to survey the entire age—including aspects of it seldom considered by more orthodox historians. The author’s vast knowledge is worn very lightly and the book teems with amusing anecdotes, but it is, at heart, a deeply personal work, a remarkable gesture of defiance against the brutal world in which it was written.
About the Author
Antal Szerb (1901-1945) was a writer, scholar, critic and translator born to Jewish parents but baptized Catholic. Multilingual, he lived in Hungary, France, Italy and England, and after graduating in German and English he rapidly established himself as a prolific scholar, publishing books on drama and poetry, studies of Ibsen and Blake, and histories of English and Hungarian literature.
At the age of 39, Szerb wrote an authoritative History of World Literature. He wrote his first novel, The Pendragon Legend, in 1934, followed by Journey by Moonlight in 1937, Oliver VII in 1942 and The Queen's Necklace in 1943. These, and a collection of his short stories, Love in a Bottle, are also published in English by Pushkin Press. Szerb was killed in a concentration camp in January 1945.
"A sparkling slice of 18th century life." - Paul Bailey, Independent
"An 18th-century scam involving Marie Antoinette, an ambitious jeweller, a charlatan doctor and a countess on the make is the subject of this engaging book. Antal Szerb was a Hungarian novelist who wrote what he called this 'real history' in 1942 and died in a labour camp in 1945. Knowing his fate lends poignancy to his witty, learned and illuminating portrayal of the ancien regime on the brink of the Revolution." - Katie Owen, Telegraph's Pick of the Paperbacks
"The Queen's Necklace is a wonderful book; both thoughtful and blasting, and another revelation of Szerb's light-footed erudition." - Ali Smith
'Szerb belongs with the master novelists of the 20th century." - Paul Bailey, Daily Telegraph
"May Szerb's entry into our literary pantheon be definitive." - Alberto Manguel, Financial Times
"Szerb is a master novelist whose powers transcend time and language." - Nicholas Lezard, Guardian