Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"The Altar of the Dead" by Henry James

"The Altar of the Dead"  by Henry James (1895, 24 pages)

"The Alter of the Dead" by Henry James is a very interesting story.   Henry James (1843 to 1916) is considered among the very best American writers of fiction.   His work has a reputation as being difficult and that puts a lot of people off from reading him.  (There is some background information on James in my prior posts on him.)   I would say read the three short stories I have posted on this month and I think there is a good change you may realize what a tremendous writer James was.   

I will just make a few more or less random observations on "The Alter of the Dead".    There are only two on stage characters in the story.   The male character was set to be married but just before the wedding his wife dies.   His close friends begin to die and he discovers he has a more amiable relationship with people after they are dead.   He sets up a shrine  in a cemetery to his ever growing list of departed and goes to visit it every day.   The portrait of the man is simply brilliant.  He meets a woman who also goes to the cemetery every day.   He over years gets to know her and becomes friends with her.   Just like in "The Beast in the Jungle" and "The Jolly Corner" the friendship never advances beyond the Platonic and the man never tries to advance it even though you can see both he and the woman want and need more from each other.   There is a perfect twist toward the end of the story.   I will not tell more of the plot.

"The Altar of the Dead" is a thematically rich story.   The prose is simply exquisite.    The characters are perfectly developed.   

You can download it or read it online HERE.

I do not know if I will make it through all of the nearly 4000 pages of the shorter fiction of Henry James but I will be reading his short stories regularly from now on and will post on the ones I like best

The next Henry James short story I will read will be "The Pupil".

Mel u


Rebecca Chapman said...

Sounds great, Ill check it out!

Mel u said...

Beck Turner-I hope it does not disappoint you-thanks as always for your comments