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South Wind by Norman Douglas
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South Wind

by Norman Douglas

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Not sure why this work is so highly rated. ( )
  JayLivernois | Nov 16, 2015 |
Overall, I think I enjoyed this novel, but I'm not entirely sure. I was amused by the way that it almost seemed to have a life of it's own, meandering away from any semblance of plot into chapters describing the foibles of the inhabitants of Nepenthe, before bringing itself back with a jerk to the action at hand. The characters are vividly drawn for the most part, and likeable in their own flawed ways.

I wouldn't recommend this novel to anyone who is irritated by a lack of plot, but otherwise, it's an entertaining enough read. Not good enough to inspire me to seek out other works by the same author though. ( )
  cazfrancis | Mar 12, 2011 |
I read this in January 1952. I found it stupid in its "daring." It is akin to Cabell's Jurgen, and almost as dull. Heard, the bishop, after a stay on the island of Nepenthe (Capri) ends up approving murder in a particular case. The whole picture of ridicule at all sorts of things struck me as only inane. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jan 9, 2011 |
Great language and characterization throughout. Would be a classic if the author had gone beyond the skeletal plot...but it picks up a bit in the second half. In parts it feels like a (much lesser) version of The Canterbury Tales...everyone reciting tales and monologues without interaction or development, but this isn't out of place given the fictional island context.

This was my first eBook for the nook...a great reading experience! Also can't beat the price (FREE!) at manybooks.net. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Jul 24, 2010 |
One of my half dozen favorite novels.
On the island of Nepenthe, with its mysterious Cave of Mercury and its resemblance to Capri, Douglas assembles his cast, including the invalided, or “Returned Empty" Bishop of Bampopo, Mr. Heard, and Muhlen, whom the bishop meets on the boat. The Duchess, really an American widow, holds court with her handmaid, Angelina, loved from afar by the 19-year old Denis Phipps and from a lot closer up by the geologist Edgar Marten. True to his name, Count Caloveglia loves, with a “pagan content” beautiful antiquities, so much that he makes them himself, including the Locri Faun that’s been recently dug up on his property. Douglas, though a Victorian born one year into that queen’s reign, has the Edwardian and between the wars fascination with the pagan one sees in Forster, Huxley, and Munro.
Amy Wilberforce is a lady whom Mr. Keith keeps bailing out when she’s jailed for getting drunk and taking off her clothes in public. The worldly priest Don Francesco and the ascetic parish priest share the spiritual duties of ministering to Douglas’s cast. The rich Mr. Keith, Count Caloveglia, and Don Francesco combine to create Douglas’s commentary on what goes on. The scholarly Ernest Eames, who has had an affair with a fat woman the islanders came to call the ballon captif, is updating Monsignor Perelli’s Antiquities of Nepenthe, often referred to in the novel. Perelli apparently had his ears cut off by “the Good Duke Alfred,” the Machiavellian ruler during his time, and thus his book hardly mentions the duke. We meet people at the Duchess’s and then at Mr. Keith’s annual bean-fest, where the food is prepared by his excellent cook and there is always some surprise—this time a band of gypsies imported from the mainland. The book’s events take place between the festivals of the island’s two saints, St. Dodekanus and St. Eulalia.
Another character is Madame Steynlin, who entertains the Little White Cows, the disciples of the “divinely inspired” Bazhakuloff; they wear red blouses, bathe naked in Madame Steynlin’s cove, and one of them becomes her lover. Eventually the Russians are involved in a riot in the main piazza and are jailed by the magistrate Malipizzo.
The list of fountains that once flowed on Nepenthe, together with the catalogue of their salubrious effects and the specific diseases they cure, is almost worth the price of the book. The drying up of the fountain of St. Elias, the last of these fountains, is the event that ushers in a series of climactic events. The Russians riot, the American prophylactic magnate von Koppen enters the story, Mr. Keith says that “Northern minds” tend to become unhinged on Nepenthe, ashes rain from a volcano on the mainland, Freddy Parker’s lady, his stepsister, dies. Freddy gets the parocco to work up a procession, thinking he’ll get his sister buried that way, since the clergy won’t be able to resist a procession. The next thing you know the ash fall stops and it starts to rain. Some thought all this was because of St. Dodekanus, some the parocco, and the parocco and Freddy thought it was Freddy, but it was really the mosquito that bit his lady and killed her.
Religion takes some hard knocks: Don Francesco is a lascivious pagan, the parocco is a prunish Puritan, Keith thinks Christianity is the product of slave morality, the Russians follow a sham messiah, and there’s a funny scene when the Count gives his views about the Bible. Van Koppen asks him how he came to read it, since he thought Italians didn’t, and Caloveglia says he was in New York, trying to understand the Jews in the Jewish quarter, and he thought reading their literature might be a help.
"The almost hysterical changes of light and darkness, summer and winter, which have impressed themselves on the literature of the North, are unknown here," says the Count. "Northern people, whether from climatic or other causes, are prone to extremes, like their own myths and sagas. The Bible is essentially a book of extremes. It is a violent document. The Goth or Anglo-Saxon has taken kindly to this book because it has always suited his purposes . . . authority for every grade of emotional conduct, from savage vindictiveness to the most abject self-abasement."
Von Koppen has the Count’s number and suspects he’s salting his property with fake antiquities. But he buys the Locri Faun anyway, for a huge price, that sets the Count up so he can give his daughter a dowry and work respectably at his sculpture.
After another small ash fall, the weather clears and the volcano on the mainland erupts. Mr. Heard witnesses Mrs. Meadows pushing someone off the precipice above her villa. He turns out to be her first husband, and the bishop speculates that Muhlen must have been extorting money from her and threatening exposure, perhaps even threatening to have his friend the magistrate take her baby away from her. He comes to approve her act, and thinks, as the book ends, that he will not return to the Church of England. Much of the book is presented through his consciousness, and as it ends he gets drunk with Keith and Denis before his departure the next day. ( )
1 vote michaelm42071 | Sep 13, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Norman Douglasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Austen, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petrina, CarlottaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Doren, CarlForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The bishop was feeling rather sea-sick.
Quotations
I don't want to discuss things. I want to listen to the opinions of a man so different from myself as you are. It may do me good.
I live sensibly. Shall I give you my recipe for happiness? I find everything useful and nothing indispensable. I find everything wonderful and nothing miraculous. I reverence the body. I avoid first causes like the plague.
You have nothing but nice people around you, Duchess. Why should you want to read about them? There is so much goodness in real life. Do let us keep it out of our books.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140000119, Paperback)

Short excerpt: All the better-class natives had disappeared below save an unusually fat young priest with a face like a full moon who pretended to be immersed in his breviary but was looking out of the corner of his eye all the time at a pretty peasant girl...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:54 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Norman Douglas' famed novel of Capri is loved and derided in equal measure for its plot of lack thereof. A hedonistic journey throygh the hedonistic lives of the islands's inhabitants, 'South Wind' is a classic of gentle satire.

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