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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Edgar Alan Poe's First Short Story--"The Bargain Lost

"The Bargain Lost" by Edgar Alan Poe (1831, 12 pages)

A Reading Life Project

Who was the first modern short story writer, who first stepped out of the fables, parables and didactic tales to produce self-consciously artistic short stories?   In a recent very edifying book, The History of the Irish Short Story (post coming soon) by a Trinity University professor, Hester Ingram we are told it is  Edgar Alan Poe.  (1809 to 1849, Boston, Massachusetts, USA).   He certainly created the detective, the horror and the supernatural story.  

I have decided to read all sixty-nine of his short stories.  The total page count is shorter than a novel I am reading now, Bleak House.   I will read them in publication order and post on an occasional story.  I do not really like to read hundreds of pages of short stories by an author in one day.  I think it is a better idea to just read one or two a day at most.   In addition to simply reading individual short stories for pleasure and edification I am now trying to understand the art form and its development and I think these stories are a very important part of the history of the modern short story.  

"The Bargain Lost" reads very much like the other Edgar Alan Poe stories I have read.  I think readers of his more famous stories could probably guess that Poe wrote it.   Reading with the knowledge of the history of literature, we can see Poe working to find a narrative method  that goes beyond the "let me tell you a story" mode.  

The story is set in Italy, probably in the late 18th century.   It is about Pedro Garcia, a metaphysician whose mental qualifications are described as "Gigantic".    It is suggested that Kant derived his metaphysics from reading his work.  I enjoyed reading an account of his philosophical background, it was brilliant and exhibits a great deal of erudition.      Poe takes a great swipe at the novelists of the time in this story also.

He does make use of the "mysterious stranger" device to advance the narrative and present a crisis in the life of the man character.  The atmosphere of the story is pure Poe!

This story was also sometimes published with the title "The Bon-Bon".   It was first published in The Saturday Courier in Philadelphia on December 1, 1832.  

All of Poe's short stories can be read at the web page of the Edgar Alan Poe Society.

I really liked this story.  I look forward to seeing the changes and developments in the talent of Poe as I read the stories in the collection in order written.

What are your favorite Poe stories?

Do you think it is accurate to call him the first modern short story writer?

Mel u

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