Prospero’s Isle

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  • "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1927) by B. Traven

    by B. Traven

    A remarkably realistic novel about a trio of American down-and-outers digging for gold in the troubled Mexico of the post-revolutionary period, told in the inimitably forceful, down-to-earth style of the author of The Death Ship.
    A forceful tale brimming with empathy for the common man and his (...)

  • "The Death Ship" (1926) by B. Traven

    by B. Traven

    This extraordinary account of the life and hardships of a penniless but very articulate and anti-establishmentarian not to say revolutionary sailor in the chaotic post-WW1 world of the twenties was first published as Das Totenschiff in Germany in 1926 under the pen-name of B. Traven. It was (...)

  • "Mendel the Book-dealer (Buchmendel)" (1929) by Stefan Zweig

    by Stefan Zweig

    The narrator recounts how he had taken shelter unexpectedly in a suburban café where he suddenly remembered having met twenty years before Mendel, a book-handler who possessed a phenomenal memory for the slightest details of any book he had ever seen or read about.
    Famous in his day, he had now (...)

  • "In the Time of Prince Charley" and other stories by Jack London

    by Jack London

    1. IN THE TIME OF PRINCE CHARLEY (1899) After the decisive Battle of Culloden in 1746 that put an end to Scottish dreams of independance a British officer escorts the captured Prince Charlie through the highlands to a rendezvous with a ship, but opposition from fierce (...)

  • "A Living Calendar" and other stories by Anton Chekhov

    by Anton Chekhov

    1. A LIVING CALENDAR (1885) An elderly official is discussing with a friend about how things used to be more lively in their town, citing memorable occasions from the past. He needs reminders from his wife as to exactly when each of these four events had taken place, and (...)

  • "A Country Doctor" (1918) by Franz Kafka

    by Franz Kafka

    An elderly country doctor is called at night to come to the bedside of a suffering young man ten miles away, but the mission is surrounded by difficulties from the start: there’s a snowstorm raging outside and his only horse has just died from over-exertion in the freezing winter. But although (...)

  • "A Family Affair" and other stories by Guy de Maupassant

    by Guy de Maupassant

    1. A FAMILY AFFAIR (1881) We follow Monsieur Caravan in his daily routine and trying to cope with the constant state of warfare between his spouse and his elderly mother who lives with them and their two ragamuffin children. But today there’s a dramatic decline in the mother’s (...)

  • "A Hunger Artist" (1922) by Franz Kafka

    by Franz Kafka

    Written in 1922 and published as the title story in the first collection of his stories to be published after his death two years later at the age of forty, this account of a man’s determined and obsessive drive to surpass himself in the art of fasting explores the theme of eating in a calmly (...)

  • Corsican stories by Maupassant

    by Guy de Maupassant

    Guy de Maupassant wrote six stories taking place in Corsica, "l’Île de Beauté" that he knew well and was particularly attracted to.
    These short but powerful tales, written in his straightforward, realistic and elegant style at the height of his literary career, are a remarkable testimonial to (...)

  • "Cosmic Encounter" (1980) by A. E. van Vogt

    by A. E. van Vogt

    In 1704 the English nobleman-turned-pirate Nathan Fletcher is en route to a planned assault on a British merchant ship in the Caribbean when one of the men spots a very strange unidentified object falling from the sky on the horizon. This turns out to be a disabled spaceship from the 83rd (...)

  • "Don Juan" (1813), by E. T. A. Hoffmann

    by E. T. A. Hoffmann

    A traveling salesman discovers that his hotel room leads directly to a private lodge in the neighbouring theatre, where a performance of Mozart’s opera “Don Juan” is about to be given. Delighted, the music lover rushes over to the lodge, where not only is the performance exceptional, but where he (...)

  • "Tobacco Shop (Tabacaria)" by Fernando Pessoa (1928)

    by Fernando Pessoa

    Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was one of the most outstanding Portuguese poets of his time and of all time, and this celebrated poem Tabacaria, a complex, melancholic and inspired meditation, is one of his most renowned works, without a doubt one of the most memorable poetic texts of the 20th (...)

  • "The Universe Maker" (1953) by A. E. van Vogt

    by A. E. van Vogt

    We are in 1953 and Lieutenant Morton Cargill is on leave from the Korean War when he stumbles into a young woman who is also leaving the dive he has been binge-leavng in. The next thing he knows is that he’s running away from a car crash that the young acquaintance hasn’t survived. However, when (...)

  • "The Golden Pot" (1819) by E. T. A. Hoffmann

    by E. T. A. Hoffmann

    An extravagant fairy-tale for grown-ups, the story of how the student Anselmus blundered his way to eternal happiness through a maze of mysterious not to say magical water-snakes, elder-trees, a golden pot and fantastic events of all sorts – one of the most brilliant and successful stories of (...)

  • "Little Zaches, called Zinnober" (1819) by E. T. A. Hoffmann

    by E. T. A. Hoffmann

    Little Zaches is a very small, misshapen, evil-tempered, utterly selfish and vainglorious little boy who’s a complete burden to his poverty-stricken mother, until one day the kindly Fräulein von Rosenschön — actually the Fairy Rosabelverde in the shape of the mistress of a convent — takes pity on (...)

  • "The War of the Worlds" (1898) by H. G. Wells

    by H. G. Wells

    This was, we do believe, the first novel on the theme of conflict with alien civilisations in the history of literature.
    It has remained justly famous for its dramatic story line — the invading Martians have superior tecHnology and are more advanced scientifically than mankind — and its (...)

  • "The Metamorphosis" (1915) by Franz Kafka

    by Franz Kafka

    One of the strangest stories of its time, a moving account of Gregor Samsa’s sudden transformation into a giant beetle that has retained his sensibility and understanding — but not the ability to express himself in ordinary language that his family can understand — and how he has to contend with (...)

  • More of A. E. van Vogt’s best late-period stories

    by A. E. van Vogt

    1. RESEARCH ALPHA (1965) A ruthless doctor in a research lab secretly tries out his new serum for accelerating evolutionary development on two unsuspecting office workers, with variable but amazing results, astounding even the superiorly-intelligent aliens who are monitoring the lab’s results — (...)

  • "Waiting for the Barbarians" (1904) by Constantin Cavafy

    by Constantin Cavafy

    Constantin Cavafy (1863-1933) , who lived all his life in the ancient Greek community in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the most important poets of modern times.
    His legacy has been celebrated by writers and poets around the world, notably by Laurence Durell in his monumental Alexandria Quartet (...)

  • "The Time Machine" (1895) by H. G. Wells

    by H. G. Wells

    H. G. Wells (1866-1946) was a prolific author in many diverse domains (novels, short stories, social commentary, history, satire and biography) and a very engaged social commentator and critic. He was nominated four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
    But he is best remembered today for (...)

  • "Petersburg Tales" by Nikolai Gogol

    by Nikolai Gogol

    1. NEVSKY PROSPEKT (1835) Nevsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg is one of the most famous streets in Russia and this account of the goings-on in and around it is one of the most famous stories of all Russian literature. (13,500 words.)
    2. THE DIARY OF A MADMAN (1835) Extracts from the diary of (...)

  • "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" (1865) by Lewis Carroll

    by Lewis Carroll

    Written in 1862 by the Oxford lecturer in mathematics Charles Dodgson (1832-1898) to amuse Alice Liddell, one of the daughters of the dean of his Christ Church faculty, this brilliant, inventive, very original and very funny tale gained immediate world-wide attention when it was published in (...)

  • "Dead Souls" (1842) by Nikolai Gogol

    by Nikolai Gogol

    The account of the not-always-successful attempts of the traveling schemer Chichikov to make his way in the world by ingratiating himself with important people and devising complicated schemes to achieve financial and social success by wile and charm — notably to purchase deceased surfs (“dead (...)

  • "A Simple Soul (Un cœur simple)" by Gustave Flaubert (1877)

    by Gustave Flaubert

    Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) is generally considered as one of the greatest Franch-language stylists of all time because of the elegant, clear and incisive quality of his prose.
    During his lifetime he published just four novels (two "mainstream" novels and two historical novels) and one (...)

  • "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell (1949)

    by George Orwell

    One of the most famous novels of its time and certainly the best-known and most widely-read science-fiction novel of all time, Nineteen Eighty-Four is an extrapolation some forty years into the future of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union — that had just been extended to a significant part (...)