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The Voyage Out (1915) is the story of a rite of passage. When Rachel Vinrace embarks for South America on her father's ship she is launched on a course of self-discovery in a modern version of the mythic voyage. Virginia Woolf knew all too well the forms that she was supposed to follow when writing of a young lady's entrance into the world, and she struggled to subvert the conventions, wittily and assiduously, rewriting and revising the novel many times.
The finished work is not, on the face of it, a 'portrait of the artist'. However, through The Voyage Out readers discover Woolf as an emerging and original artist: not identified with the heroine, but present everywhere in the social satire, the lyricism, and the patterning of consciousness.
Woolf originally began work on The Voyage Out in 1910 and had finished an early draft by 1912. Yet the novel had a long and difficult gestation and was not published until 1915. It was written during a period in which Woolf was especially psychologically vulnerable. She suffered from periods of depression and at one point attempted suicide. The resultant work contained the seeds of all that would blossom in her later work: the innovative narrative style, the focus on feminine consciousness, sexuality and death.
About the Author
Adeline Virginia Woolf (born Jan. 25, 1882, London, Eng. - died March 28, 1941, near Rodmell, Sussex) British novelist and critic. Daughter of Leslie Stephen, she and her sister became the early nucleus of the Bloomsbury group. She married Leonard Woolf in 1912; in 1917 they founded the Hogarth Press. Her best novels - including Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) - are experimental; in them she examines the human experience of time, the indefinability of character, and external circumstances as they impinge on consciousness.
Orlando (1928) is a historical fantasy about a single character who experiences England from the Elizabethan era to the early 20th century, and The Waves (1931), perhaps her most radically experimental work, uses interior monologue and recurring images to trace the inner lives of six characters. Such works confirmed her place among the major figures of literary modernism. Her best critical studies are collected in The Common Reader (1925, 1932).
Her long essay A Room of One's Own (1929) addressed the status of women, and women artists in particular. Her other novels include Jacob's Room (1922), The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). She also wrote a biography of Roger Fry. Her health and mental stability were delicate throughout her life; in a recurrence of mental illness, she drowned herself. Her diaries and correspondence have been published in several editions.
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