BOOK REVIEWS: A Marvellous Trio of Classics; Paris France by Gertrude Stein (Peter Owen: Pounds 9.95)' Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (Peter Owen: Pounds 10.95)' Urien's Voyage by Andre Gide (Peter Owen: Pounds 7.95)

Article excerpt

Byline: Reviews by Richard Edmond

A marvellous trio of classics from Peter Owen, reveal their intrinsic beauty slowly but perfectly.

Hesse, Gide and Stein have all left their mark upon the generations of writers who came after them, unfortunately for us all of them have very little to offer Hollywood and those who grovel for Oscars, Emmys and the like.

Gertrude Stein's Paris France is witty, wise and filled with sharp observations of France during the 1940s. Not that it is about Paris - at least, not much. Stein was nothing if not controversial and she did for language what Cubism did for art by turning it upon its head.

Here, she produces a highly readable melange of food, fashion, pets, musicians, painters and friends, all dished up with Stein's humour and innocuous relish but actually betraying in every paragraph her sharply clever elegance.

Andre Gide writes such jewelled prose that you could almost be encountering Oscar Wilde's novel Dorian Gray. In this remarkable novel Urien is Gide himself, struggling to come to terms with the imbalance between the world of the senses (the Dionysian) and the higher world of the spirit (the Apollonian). Therefore, the book moves between the temptations of the flesh and the yearnings of the intellect and reads like a fantastic Arabian Nights adventure where the stylistic password is Symbolism with its hand maiden - sensuality -stressing always (as a dedicated Symbolist should) the intuitive rather than the objective. …