A Folio Society limited edition
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Introduced by James Wood
Translated by E. J. Kenney
A new limited edition of Apuleius’ enormously entertaining and immensely influential novel, featuring exuberant illustrations by Quentin Blake. Each copy is signed and numbered by the artist. Fewer than 10 remain
The 2nd-century writer and orator Apuleius had a chequered but ultimately glorious career which took him from his native North Africa to Athens and Rome, and from being tried for witchcraft to being appointed a priest of the Roman imperial cult. To the ancients he was primarily famous as a neo-Platonist thinker, but to later centuries his reputation rests on a work which has had an incalculable impact on the development of Western literature – The Golden Ass.
‘The most continuously and accessibly amusing book that has come down to us from classical antiquity’
‘A book, like a person, has its fortunes with one; is lucky or unlucky in the precise moment of its falling in our way, and often by some happy accident ranks with us for something more than its independent value. The Metamorphoses of Apuleius, coming to Marius just then, figured for him as indeed The golden book … It occupied always a peculiar place in his remembrance, never quite losing its power in repeated returns to it for the revival of that first glowing impression.’
‘The book of books, the “golden” book of that day’
An extract from
James Wood’s introduction
The Golden Ass, though in many ways a characteristic fiction of its time, is a work of genius that bursts out of its historical moment; one that has had an enormous influence on the history of the novel, and which continues to influence contemporary literature. But this runs the risk of making Apuleius’ book sound worthy, solemn and scholastic, when it is above all very entertaining – bawdy, funny, irreverent, outrageous …
Our task is not to sympathise (or not too strongly, at least) with Lucius, let alone to ‘empathise’ with him. Our task is to enjoy the comedy of his misfortune, and to benefit from the lesson of his moral correction and redemption . . . Thanks to the farcical, episodic, picaresque nature of Lucius’ sufferings, they take on a cartoonish quality. We understand that each beating cannot really be life-threatening, cannot be truly serious, cannot be truly real, because we know that another beating will come around tomorrow. Lucius is a comic survivor. In this sense, perhaps, the god of Laughter, though undeniably cruel, is also finally ‘kindly’ – no true harm will befall our benighted hero …
What begins as a young man’s picaresque adventure and becomes a raucous and outlandish tale told by an ass-idiot, ends in clouds of harmony and religious rectitude. But perhaps we remember, at this point, that the title Apuleius seems to have given this work – the one found on the manuscript – is Metamorphoses, or ‘Transformations’. Here, at last, is the ultimate metamorphosis, the most important one, in which rogue turns into religionist, learned fool into holy fool; and in which the very gods themselves metamorphose, from malevolent to benign.
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Review by nickmuir on 13th Jul 2015
"Wow, I have just received my copy. It is awesome, Quentin you have done it again. To own such an amazing book, autographed by an artist as well-known as Quentin Blake, in such a limited print run, is ..." [read more]