The Solar Circus—Gustave Kahn

The Solar Circus—Gustave Kahn

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The Solar Circus is the great forgotten masterpiece of French symbolist literature. Written by Gustave Kahn—the man whom Stéphane Mallarmé and Jules Laforgue credited as inventing free-verse poetry—the novel drips in decadent images of pastoral vistas, exotic gemstones, and a phantasmagoric menagerie. Inverting day for night and reality for a dazzling dream, The Solar Circus tells the story of a solipsistic, isolated Bavarian Count who falls in love with the star of a traveling circus. Together, they set out from the count’s castle, encountering a world in transformation: peasants in rebellion, the bright lights of London’s Orpheum theater, and even an ether-swilling Jack the Ripper in an opium den.

Best known as a poet and member of the symbolist movement, The Solar Circus showcases Kahn’s talents as a narrative writer and bears the hallmarks of many of the poetic endeavors unique to late 19th century. Indeed, in the same way that the novel’s circus coaxes the count out of oppressive isolation, so too does Kahn’s prose lead the reader in new and fantastic directions. The Solar Circus is a text unlike any other, one that vacillates effortlessly between poetry and prose and prefigures those seminal 20th century works of modernist literature like Ulysses, which would appear more than two decades later.

The Solar Circus will be published by First to Knock in 2022. Its publication will mark not only the novel’s first appearance in English, but also its first independent re-edition since it was published in 1898. The novel has been newly translated by Sam Kunkel, a scholar of 19th century symbolist literature. Kunkel has also provided translations for the First To Knock collection Echoes of a Natural World—Tales of the Strange & Estranged (2020) as well as A Beam of Sunlight in the Deep Forest—Mystical Prose Works by Édouard Schuré (2021).

5.25" x 8" / Softcover

Book Design by Nick Ferreira / Cover Illustration by Kevin Barry


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