A witty and erudite love letter to a bygone age, from one of Europe’s last great humanists.
“A sparkling slice of eighteenth-century life” Paul Bailey, Independent
In August 1785 Paris buzzed with scandal. It involved an eminent churchman, a notorious charlatan, a female fraudster, a part-time prostitute and the hated Queen herself. At its heart was the most expensive diamond necklace ever assembled and the web of fraud, folly and self-delusion it had inspired. In Szerb’s last major work, a witty and often surprising account of events, the story is used as a standpoint from which to survey the entire age. Written in war-torn Hungary in the early 1940s, it constitutes a remarkable gesture of defiance against the brutal world in which the writer lived and died.
Antal Szerb (1901-1945) was born in Budapest. Though of Jewish descent, he was baptised at an early age and remained a lifelong Catholic. He rapidly established himself as a formidable scholar, through studies of Ibsen and Blake and histories of English, Hungarian and world literature. He was a prolific essayist and reviewer, ranging across all the major European languages. Debarred by successive Jewish laws from working in a university, he was subjected to increasing persecution, and finally murdered in a forced labour camp in 1945. Pushkin Press publishes his novels The Pendragon Legend, Oliver VII and his masterpiece Journey by Moonlight, as well as the historical study The Queen’s Necklace and Love in a Bottle and Other Stories.