Published On: Tue, Jul 26th, 2016

Ten “Lost” books should you Read Now


As the revival of lost works takes the publishing world by storm, Lucy Scholes delves into the archive to uncover the best hidden literary gems.



Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, Teffi (1928-1930)

Only recently published in English for the first time (by Pushkin Press and NYBR Classics, translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson and Irina Steinberg), the writer and satirist Teffi was a literary sensation in Russia before she was forced to flee in 1919. Memories tells the story of this journey – across Russia, Ukraine and the Black Sea to Istanbul – and the people she met along the way. With an unflinching eye for detail, whether noting the comedy of a fellow refugee’s turn of phrase or the torture enacted on his prisoners by a sadistic colonel, Teffi paints a portrait of a unique historical moment that also resonates with contemporary horrors.(Credit: Pushkin Press)


Marie, Madeleine Bourdouxhe (1943)

Another new re-release, Belgium-born Bourdouxhe’s second novel reverberates with echoes of the work of some of the best writers of the early 20th Century – Proust, Woolf, Jean Rhys and Marguerite Duras. Fans of these writers will be delighted to discover this less well-known but no less haunting portrait of female interiority that’s strikingly modern for its 1930s setting. Bourdouxhe doesn’t so much tell the story of her protagonist – happily married, intelligent and beautiful 30-year-old Marie – as show the inner workings of her consciousness following a transformative encounter with a handsome young man among the sand dunes of the Côte d’Azur. (Credit: Daunt Books, translated by Faith Evans)


The World My Wilderness, Rose Macaulay (1950)

It is 1946, and newly arrived in London after a war spent running wild with the Maquis in Provence, 17-year-old Barbary struggles to fit in to her father and stepmother’s conventional household. Instead she spends her time exploring the bombed out ruins around St Paul’s, a landscape Macaulay conjures up in a most evocative way: an eerie urban wilderness where nature is already starting to overrun the rubble. Although currently out of print, The World My Wilderness is not only a highlight of Macaulay’s prolific career, it’s also one of the best novels written about the immediate post-war period. (Credit: Collins)


To the One I Love the Best, Ludwig Bemelmans (1955)

Famous for his enchanting Madeline books, Bemelmans is also the author of this equally charming memoir (also out of print) recounting his friendship with Lady Mendl, Elsie de Wolfe. Bemelmans meets de Wolfe – the woman credited with the invention of the profession of interior decoration, and one of the most amusing characters ever drawn on the page: “She weighed about ninety pounds without her jewels, and when I met her she was ninety years old” – in Hollywood, but the story of their time together also takes them to Versailles where, in the aftermath of World War Two, de Wolfe’s Villa Trianon provides a makeshift home for war orphans. (Credit: Viking Adult)


The Blackmailer, Isabel Colegate (1958)

Best known for her novel The Shooting Party (1980), a swansong to the Edwardian upper classes before the Great War shattered their idyll, The Blackmailer, Colegate’s first novel – currently available from Valancourt Books – more than deserves a mention on this list. Combine the slightly offbeat sensibility of Muriel Spark with the milieu of an Iris Murdoch novel and you’ll have something of an idea about this witty tale of extortion and romance, all played out against the gin-soaked backdrop of the 1950s London literary scene. (Credit: Valancourt Books)


The Vet’s Daughter, Barbara Comyns (1959)

A hugely under-appreciated novelist, Barbara Comyns is at her most bonkers and brilliant best with this strange, sad story set in south London at the turn of the 20th Century, in which young Alice Rowlands is terrorized by her vicious father. When it comes to ghoulish horrors and disturbing incident, Comyns’s vision of suburbia rivals any Gothic mansion. Never, for example, has innocuous Clapham Common been the site of such a violent denouement. If I had to draw a comparison it would be with the feminist-infused magical realism of Angela Carter, but really Comyns is in a league all of her own. (Credit: Hachette UK)


The Glass Pearls, Emeric Pressburger (1966)

Although many readers will be familiar with his work as one half of Powell and Pressburger, the most famous partnership in 20th-Century British cinema, few will be aware that Pressburger – a Hungarian Jewish émigré – also wrote this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller. His protagonist is a Nazi war criminal – a doctor who conducted sadistic experiments on concentration camp inmates – who’s been on the run for 20 years, living incognito in London as an unassuming piano tuner. As he ratchets up the tension, Pressburger achieves something horrifyingly chilling: he actually has you sympathising with his anti-hero. (Credit: Faber)


Something to Answer For, PH Newby (1968)

This novel’s original claim to fame was that it won the inaugural Booker Prize in 1969. Today, somewhat ironically, it’s notorious for being the only one of the award’s 46 winners not currently in print. Set in Egypt in 1956 against the backdrop of the Suez Crisis, Newby’s scathing and highly comic period piece also delivers a story far stranger than anticipated. After receiving a nasty blow to the head, Townrow, a British soldier come to Port Said to deal with the estate of a recently deceased friend, finds himself struggling to keep up with events unfolding around him. (Credit: Faber)


The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from the New Yorker, Maeve Brennan (1969)

This is another timely recommendation as a new edition of Irish-born, Maeve Brennan’s short story collection The Springs of Affection has just been reprinted by the Dublin-based press Stinging Fly. I’d definitely urge readers to seek this out too, but personally I have a soft spot for her non-fiction. Between 1954 and 1968 Brennan supplied copy for the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town section under the fabulous pen name ‘The Long-Winded Lady’. Her vignettes of Manhattan life combine the detachment of the flaneuse with the lived experience of her own street-dwelling subjects – especially poignant given Brennan became homeless towards the end of her life and lived out of the ladies’ bathroom at the offices of the New Yorker. (Credit: Counterpoint)


All the Devils Are Here, David Seabrook (2002)

I only recently discovered this title, via the wonderful Backlisted Podcast – if you’re looking for more forgotten gems, I’d definitely recommend subscribing. Memoir-informed narrative non-fiction has become ever popular in recent years, but Seabrook is miles ahead of the curve with this decidedly creepy and unsettling corpse-strewn journey through the seaside towns of Kent. A sort of literary beachcomber, digging around in a grubby pool of fact, anecdote and tenuous connection, he begins with the tale of the painter and patricide Richard Dadd and ends with the supposed true story that inspired Joseph Losey’s 1963 film The Servant. (Credit: Granta Books)

Source news BBC

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