Romance Books: desire, love, passion— you'll find them here...
Joseph Bedier, Romance of Tristan and Iseult Joseph Bédier (editor), The Romance of Tristan and Iseult (Reissue 1994), Vintage Books, ISBN: 0679750169The Romance of Tristan and Iseult is one of the greatest legends in all of literature. The story of a Cornish knight and an Irish princess who fell in love by magic originally appeared in the 12th century, sung by troubadours for the pleasure of the lords and ladies of feudal Europe. As its fame spread so did its influence. The theories of courtly love and redemptive passion found their way into the works of Dante, Petrarch, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Racine, Byron, Goethe, and Wagner. But nowhere has it been retold with greater eloquence and dignity than in Joseph Bédier's 1900 edition. This volume weaves several medieval sources into a seamless whole, elegantly translated from the French by Hilaire Belloc and Paul Rosenfeld. New York Times review: “A powerful rendition, an incomparable tale.” Chicago Sunreview: “Definitely a book to preserve and cherish.” Avg. Review (4): 4 stars
Pierre Abailard, Betty Radice, Letters of Abelard and Heloise Pierre Abailard, Betty Radice, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (1974), Viking Press, ISBN: 0140442979— Abelard and Heloise are nearly as famous a pair of tragic lovers as the fictional Romeo and Juliet— their shared passion for knowledge, religious faith, and one another sealed their destiny. Abelard was a well-respected, 12th-century Parisian scholar and teacher, and Heloise was his talented young student. The two relate their story through a set of letters to one another and intimate acquaintances. Their ardor is unmistakable; as Abelard writes to his love, “So intense were the fires of lust which bound me to you that I set those wretched, obscene pleasures, which we blush even to name, above God as above myself...” This forbidden lust resulted in a pregnancy and secret marriage, and when their union could no longer withstand the challenges in its path, each lover sought refuge in the church— Abelard became a monk and Heloise an abbess. Their correspondence continued as both achieved success in their new careers but continued to struggle with their feelings for one another. Their letters powerfully articulates the wide range of emotions they experienced. So timeless is their love story that after eight centuries— their passion, their devotion, and their struggle still resonate with readers. 4 stars
Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet (1998), Dalkey Archive Press, ISBN: 1564781887
“As a sweet apple turns red on a high branch, / high on the highest branch and the applepickers forgot— / well, no they didn't forget— were not able to reach...” This poem fragment from Sappho speaks volumes about the space of desire. Sappho begins with a sweet apple and ends in infinite hunger. Gems like this are scattered copiously in this book. Few would deny that falling in love is a bittersweet experience. Beginning with a discussion of Sappho, who invented the adjective “bittersweet” (glukupikros) to describe Eros, Anne Carson discovers the essential likeness of falling in love and coming to know. Eros acts in the mind of the lover the way knowledge acts in the mind of the thinker. On the nature of human desire, Carson writes “that all eros is miserable because we wish it to be so. And we wish it to be so because bittersweet desire is one of the greatest pleasures we have, igniting all our efforts to reach beyond the possible.” 5 stars
Octavio Paz, The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism Octavio Paz, The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism (1994), Harvest Books, ISBN: 0156003651— This book is a collection of nine essays where Nobel laureate Octavio Paz explores the intimate connection between sex, eroticism, and love. Beginning with Plato's Symposium, he gives a short history of love and eroticism in literature throughout the ages: from the influence of the great cities Alexandria and Rome on the development of love poetry, to courtly love in Heian Japan and 12th century France, to love in modern novels such as Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Joyce's Ulysses. Rich in scope, Paz examines everything from taboo to repression, Carnival to Lent, Sade to Freud, Original Sin to artificial intelligence. “Brimming with insight, thoughtfulness, and sincerity... a poetic road map to the past, present, and future of love” is how Kirkus Reviews praised this book. You'll enjoy the engaging discourse on what Paz calls our “share of paradise.” Avg. Review (4): 5 stars
Thomas Taylor, Apuleius, Fable of Cupid & Psyche Thomas Taylor (translator), Apuleius, Fable of Cupid & Psyche (Reprint 1999), Philosophical Research Society, ISBN: 0893144118— A photographic facsimile of the 1795 edition, the title page of which reads: “The Fable of Cupid and Psyche, translated from the Latin of Apuleius, to which are added, a Poetical Paraphrase on the Speech of Diotima, in the Banquet of Plato, Four Hymns, with an Introduction, in which the meaning of the fable is unfolded.” Taylor's extensive prologue deals with the mystery of the human soul, divine love, and human regeneration. Eros, or Cupid, is introduced as the Divine Principle in man and Psyche as the human soul. As the plot develops it is obvious that the supporting philosophical doctrines are derived from the secret teachings of the Mystery Schools. The fact that Apuleius was an initiate of the classical Mysteries and among the most enlightened of the Neoplatonists more than justifies the present edition as a major contribution in this field of Platonic psychology. 5 stars
Michelle Lovric, Love Letters: Anthology of Passion Michelle Lovric (Editor), Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion (1995), Marlowe & Co., ISBN: 1569248575“My weary mind turns for refreshment to the thought of you as a dusty traveller might sink onto a soft and grassy bank.” These tender words from Flaubert to Louise Colet in 1853, offer just a hint of the rich collection of lovers' correspondence preserved in this delightful book. Lovric has has tracked down and photographed tender lover letters from museums and libraries all over the world. In doing so, she has recreated the touching and personal experience of opening a love letter for the first time. This elegant book contains envelopes and packets wherin reproductions of actual letters from such writers as Isadora Duncan, Robert Browning, and Dylan Thomas can be found. Fine art paintings, Victorian chromolithographs and line drawings, and textured papers add to the beauty of this extraordinary book. Avg. Review (2): 5 stars
M. Lovric (Ed.), Passionate Love Letters: An Anthology of Desire (1997) Review (1): 5 stars
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