Porius
  • Porius
  • Porius

Porius

by John Cowper Powys
     
 

"Porius stood upon the low square tower above the Southern Gate of Mynydd-y-Gaer, and looked down on the wide stretching valley below." So begins one of the most unique novels of twentieth-century literature, by one of its most "extraordinary, neglected geniuses," said Robertson Davies of John Cowper Powys. Powys thought Porius his masterpiece, but because of the…  See more details below

Overview

"Porius stood upon the low square tower above the Southern Gate of Mynydd-y-Gaer, and looked down on the wide stretching valley below." So begins one of the most unique novels of twentieth-century literature, by one of its most "extraordinary, neglected geniuses," said Robertson Davies of John Cowper Powys. Powys thought Porius his masterpiece, but because of the paper shortage after World War II and the novel's lengthiness, he could not find a publisher for it. Only after he cut one-third from it was it accepted. This new edition not only brings Porius back into print, but makes the original book at last available to readers. Set in the geographic confines of Powys's own homeland of Northern Wales, Porius takes place in the course of a mere eight October days in 499 A.D., when King Arthur - a key character in the novel, along with Myrddin Wyllt, or Merlin - was attempting to persuade the people of Britian to repel the barbaric Saxon invaders. Porius, the only child of Prince Einion of Edeyrnion, is the main character who is sent on a journey that is both historical melodrama and satirical allegory. A complex novel, Porius is a mixture of mystery and philosophy on a huge narrative scale, as if Nabokov or Pynchon tried to compress Dostoevsky into a Ulyssean mold. Writing in The New Yorker, George Steiner has said of the abridged Porius that it "combines [a] Shakespearean-epic sweep of historicity with a Jamesian finesse of psychological detail and acuity. Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, which I believe to be the American masterpiece after Melville, is a smaller thing by comparison." This new, and first complete, edition of the novel substantiates both Steiner's judgement and Powys's claim for Porius as his masterpiece.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This edition of Powys's novel contains material excised from the 1951 original. Set in northern Wales in the year 499, this Arthurian tale is a mixture of mystery and philosophy. For serious literature collections.
Kirkus Reviews
A sprawling addition to the Arthurian cycle, full of "civilized and Romanized" Brythonic Celts, uncivilized and unromanized Saxons and even a few more exotic types. How do we know he's a king? So asked the good denizens of Monty Python and the Holy Grail with respect to good King Arthur, to which the response came, "He hasn't got shit all over him." Powys's Arthur cleans up pretty well, bobbing and weaving through the pages of this tome. As the story goes, Powys (1872-1963) brought its 1,600 manuscript pages to his publisher, who turned it down, presumably dismayed at the author's disregard for the post-World War II paper shortage; it lost 500 pages and was published and promptly forgotten. The present edition restores Powys's original, which tends toward encyclopedic lectures on alchemy and early British society and suchlike matters while throwing in rashers of violence and even some hints of the naughty bits. The novel, set in 499 CE, concerns the sentimental education of one Porius, son of Prince Einion and Princess Euronyw and thus a cousin removed of said Amherawdr Arthur (get used to Welsh, for the tale is thick with it), with young Porius growing skilled at various things and styles of thinking. His grandpa, Porius Manlius, is a tough old bird who admires such knowledge: "He knows the forest people's tricks and all their jungles and swamps better than I ever knew our Uriconium textbooks of war!" That Robert Howardian moment aside, readers with a passion for all things Tolkien will find this epic a pleasure, for it is full of Tolkienesque characters and interludes ("Well! There is something about this boy bard's mystical arrogance that would be bound to irritate an old collector oflegends") and plenty of good old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery stuff, all very well told if told at admittedly great length. And as for the Saxons? Well, suffice it to say that determined readers will learn a thing or two about all manner of varlets-and some juicy Welsh curses.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585679959
Publisher:
Overlook
Publication date:
09/30/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
752
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) lived in the United States as well as his native England.  The author of ten novels, including A Glastonbury Romance, Weymouth Sands, and Maiden Castle, as well as many works of criticism and philosophy, he was the son of a vicar and a descendant of the poets Donne and Cowper.

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