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Couperus, widely considered one of the greatest Dutch novelists, gained prominence in 1889 with this psychological novel inspired by the naturalist style of Zola and the innovative characterizations of Flaubert. Eline, withdrawn and subject to depression, accepts the marriage proposal of a family friend, only to break off the engagement, convinced that her sickly but charismatic cousin Vincent is in love with her. Vincent drifts in other directions. She travels, dreams, and deteriorates. Moving back to The Hague, she lives alone in a hotel, where during a nervous crisis she takes what may or may not be an accidental overdose. Award-winning translator Ina Rilke’s new translation of this masterpiece will be a literary event.
Listen to translator Ina Rilke and writer Paul Binding discuss Louis Couperus's Eline Vere on the Leonard Lopate Show.
[A] masterpiece. . . . The Hague's greatest writer, turn-of-the-century Louis Couperus . . . captured the city in a famous novel, Eline Vere. . . . For its roomy, chatty descriptions of life among the moneyed classes, it is a Buddenbrooks avant la lettre; for its restless heroine, trapped by social obligations, it's a Dutch Madame Bovary. . . in Ina Rilke's smart new translation, it anticipates the questions that would become so important for women in the decades to come: no longer content in a purely domestic world, what were they to do with themselves?"
—Ben Moser, Harper's
Electric. . . . Astounding. . . . A pleasure we've missed for far too long. . . . It has the energy of the great Victorian novels without the melodrama. . . . Couperus is a fine, driving storyteller. . . . who wrote wonderfully about the small things that add up to a person's fate. . . . He's brilliant on the ebb and flow and fights of family life . . . The same detail that absorbs his characters . . . comes to absorb his readers, too."
—Michael Pye, The Scotsman
Superb. . . . Couperus handles his many characters with masterly ease and keeps his prose smooth, light, and flowing: Ina Rilke's translation cannot be praised highly enough. . . . With Eline Vere the estimable Archipelago Books continues to make available in English some of the most important works of European literature."
—Michael Dirda, The Wall Street Journal
His sympathy for the hybrid, the impure and the ambiguous gave him a peculiarly modern voice. It is extraordinary that this Dutch dandy, writing in the flowery language of fin-de-siècle decadence, should still sound so fresh."
—The New York Review of Books
Couperus can fittingly be seen as the Dutch answer to Oscar Wilde."
The portrait of their unfolding affair is a masterful observation of the beauty and illogic of romantic love."
—Times Literary Supplement
Couperus binds both irony and spiritual redemption."
—The Daily Telegraph