For Hazzard and her husband, both insatiable readers, the Naples of Pliny, Gibbon, and Auden is constantly alive to them in the present. And in "The Ancient Shore", Hazzard is our guide, as we encounter Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and of course Goethe, but her concern is primarily with the Naples of our own time -- often violently unforgiving to innocent tourists, but able to transport the visitor who attends patiently to its rhythms and history. A town shadowed by both the symbol and the reality of Vesuvius can never fail to acknowledge the essential precariousness of life -- nor, as the lover of Naples discovers, the human compassion, generosity, and friendship that are necessary to sustain it.
The Great Fire is an extraordinary love story set in the immediate aftermath of the great conflagration of the Second World War. In war-torn Asia and stricken Europe, men and women, still young but veterans of harsh experience, must reinvent their lives and expectations, and learn, from their past, to dream again. Some will fulfill their destinies, others will falter. At the center of the story, a brave and brilliant soldier finds that survival and worldly achievement are not enough. His counterpart, a young girl living in occupied Japan and tending her dying brother, falls in love, and in the process discovers herself.<P><P> In the looming shadow of world enmities resumed, and of Asia's coming centrality in world affairs, a man and a woman seek to recover self-reliance, balance, and tenderness, struggling to reclaim their humanity. The Great Fire is a story of love in the aftermath of war by "purely and simply, one of the greatest writers working in English today." (Michael Cunningham)<P> The Great Fire is the winner of the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction.
The Transit of Venus is considered Shirley Hazzard's most brilliant novel. It tells the story of two orphan sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, as they leave Australia to start a new life in post-war England. What happens to these young women -- seduction and abandonment, marriage and widowhood, love and betrayal -- becomes as moving and wonderful and yet as predestined as the transits of the planets themselves. Gorgeously written and intricately constructed, Hazzard's novel is a story of place: Sydney, London, New York, Stockholm; of time: from the fifties to the eighties; and above all, of women and men in their passage through the displacements and absurdities of modern life.
These nonfiction works span from the 1960s to the 2000s and were produced by one of the great fiction writers of the period. They add critical depth to Shirley Hazzard's creative world and encapsulate her extensive and informed thinking on global politics, international relations, the history and fraught present of Western literary culture, and postwar life in Europe and Asia. They also offer greater access to her brilliant craftsmanship and the multiple registers in which her writings operate. Hazzard writes about the manifold failings of the United Nations, where she worked in the early 1950s. She shares her personal experience with the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombings and the nature of life in late-1940s Hong Kong. She presents her thoughts on the decline of the hero as a public figure in Western literature. These works contribute to a keener understanding of postwar letters, thought, and politics, supported by an introduction that situates Hazzard's writing within its historical context and emphasizes her influence on world literature. This collection confirms Hazzard's place within a network of writers, artists, and intellectuals who believe in the ongoing power of literature to console, inspire, and direct human life, despite-or maybe because of-the world's disheartening realities.
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