Michiel Heyns’s thought-provoking and slyly witty novel THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE, abridged by Sara Davies, will be read by Sian Thomas on BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, starting tonight, Monday 16 May . The novel has been published by Freight Books in the UK and will be published by St Martins Press in the US in 2017. Episodes will be available to listen to again shortly after broadcast.
Carefully researched and yet abundantly inventive, THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE brings to life a man – Henry James – who is the subject of literary interest worldwide. But unlike in other James-themed novels, Heyns does not make James the hero of the piece – the role of heroine is filled by the wonderful fictional character of his typist, Frieda Wroth. The novel won pre-publication praise – ‘delicious’, ‘breathtaking’, ‘admirable’ – from writers like Ronald Frame, Zoe Wicomb and Lyndall Gordon. Freight published in the month of the centenary of Henry James’ death and reviews are glowing.
‘Anyone who loves Henry James will adore THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE … Frieda is smart, funny, modern and intuitive and with her story, Heyns has given us something playful as well as thought-provoking’ – Lesley McDowell, The Independent on Sunday
‘A love of Henry James’ work is certainly not necessary to enjoy this novel … in tone it is light-hearted and entertaining. Heyns not only has fun with James and his family, but with a series of guest stars like Hugh Walpole, and Edith Wharton, who sweeps through the novel like a force of nature at regular points. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say we can’t have too many novels about Henry James, I am certainly glad we now have this one too.’ – 1stReading’s Blog
‘THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE is excellent and admirable, written in Jamesian style, but with lashings of the humour often lacking in the great man’s work … Heyns is a beautiful writer and it’s a measure of his talent that he apes James’s circumlocutions without stumbling. His images are vivid and apt. … Frieda provides the novel’s heart and its soul, and she is a lovely creation.’ – Lee Randall, A History of My life in 100 Objects blog
THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE slyly probes questions of love and art, creativity, immortality and the nature of a life fully lived. Michiel Heyns convincingly recreates the society in the town of Rye around ‘the Master’, as seen through the cool gaze of his typist, Frieda. Admiring of the great author, she nevertheless feels marginalised and under-valued, a mere typewriter, amidst the stolid servants and chattering guests. But when the dashing Morton Fullerton comes to visit, Frieda finds herself at the centre of an intrigue every bit as engrossing as the novels she types every day, bringing her into conflict with the flamboyant Edith Wharton, and compromising her loyalty to her employer. The urbane, long-winded Henry James, the suave, witty Morton Fullerton and the voracious, larger-than life Edith Wharton: caught in a triangle of which she only gradually comes to understand the nature, Frieda tries to obey the Master’s dictum: ‘Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to.’ But living, she finds, exacts a price: it takes place at the expense of other lives.
Michiel Heyns is a prize-winning novelist, translator and critic, one of South Africa’s leading literary lights and recipient of several international fellowships.. He is also Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Stellenbosch University and author of EXPULSION AND THE NINETEENTH CENTURY NOVEL (OUP, 1994) as well as numerous articles, and radio adaptations of Henry James’ novels. All of his novels have been published in South Africa by Jonathan Ball and THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Africa Region and is also published in French by Philippe Rey. Freight will publish a further novel LOST GROUND in the UK in 2017
For more on Michiel’s novels, see his website.
More praise for THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE:
'...beams a brilliant light onto the world of Henry James, illuminating the language, manners and social mores of the early twentieth century. This exquisite account of the master and his amanuensis is a tour de force; her story, for all the confines of a typist's life in Rye, a triumph. Heyns is an important figure in South African letters; here he is profound and humorous. THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE is a breathtaking work and, above all, a pleasure to read.' Zoe Wicomb author of Playing in the Light and October
‘THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE is admirable for its Jamesian inwardness and delicacy. It’s a brilliant idea to explore the typewriter’s view of the great writer she serves and to imagine so plausibly how she is drawn into his world.’ Lyndall Gordon, author of Henry James: His Women and His Art
'What a great idea! The master-observer is observed by his stenographer. A delicious treat for Henry James aficionados, and also for those who may never have read a word. Sly, sympathetic, high-minded, involving, moving, funny. I loved it, and was very sorry to reach the last page. But Freida Wroth and Mr James and the other characters will live on in my mind.' Ronald Frame, author of The Lantern Bearers and Havisham