Orlando: A Biography (Modern Classics S)

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9780140003819: Orlando: A Biography (Modern Classics S)

In her most exuberant, most fanciful novel, Woolf has created a character liberated from the restraints of time and sex. Born in the Elizabethan Age to wealth and position, Orlando is a young nobleman at the beginning of the story-and a modern woman three centuries later. “A poetic masterpiece of the first rank” (Rebecca West). The source of a critically acclaimed 1993 feature film directed by Sally Potter. Index; illustrations.

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Review:

In 1928, way before everyone else was talking about gender-bending and way, way before the terrific movie with Tilda Swinton, Virginia Woolf wrote her comic masterpiece, a fantastic, fanciful love letter disguised as a biography, to Vita Sackville-West. Orlando enters the book as an Elizabethan nobleman and leaves the book three centuries and one change of gender later as a liberated woman of the 1920s. Along the way this most rambunctious of Woolf's characters engages in sword fights, trades barbs with 18th century wits, has a baby, and drives a car. This is a deliriously written, breathless-making book and a classic both of lesbian literature and the Western canon.

From the Back Cover:

Orlando, subtitled A Biography, is one of Virginia Woolf's most experimental works, a jeu d'esprit that becomes increasingly serious as it leads us on a satirical, and intensely poetic, progress through 300 years of English history. It is a book about the nature of writing, which not only plays with literary forms but subverts the fixed categories of time and sexuality. Its hero, who suddenly becomes a heroine, eludes death to live from the reign of Elizabeth I to the end of the 1920s.

While developing her hero-heroine against a richly colored historical backdrop in which many of the great names of English letters play cameo roles, Woolf explores various highly modern themes. The novel, first published in 1928, focuses particularly on the social and political position of women, on societal constructions of sexual identity, and the situation of the woman author. Based in part on the life and career of Vita Sackville-West, with whom Woolf was for a time in love, Orlando extends the boundaries of fiction and makes play with ideas of biographical authority. The novel presages techniques and interests developed in such later works as The Waves (1931) and Between the Acts (1941). Woolf's feminist treatise, A Room of One's Own, published the previous year, shares a number of the novel's concerns.

This edition adopts as its copy-text the surviving proofs marked and revised by Woolf for the novel's American publication. Purged of printing errors, the copy-text is emended by Woolf's later revisions for the first English edition. The text is supplemented by an introduction setting the novel in its literary and biographical contexts, by explanatory notes offering much new information about its sources, and lists of emendations and textual variants.

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