Book Description


CARTER, Angela Olive. ‘The Curious Room’, offprint from Margaret Enid BRIDGES (editor). On Strangeness. (SPELL. Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature, vol. 5, ed. by The Swiss Association of University Teachers of English (SAUTE) with general editor Max Nänny). Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1990, pp. 215-232.

Octavo (225 x 150mm), pp. [215]-232. Original printed wrappers, upper wrapper with title and ‘off-print’ within printed frame, series information on inner upper wrapper, table of contents on lower wrapper recto-and-verso. (Extremities minimally rubbed and slightly creased, very light marking on lower wrapper.)

Provenance: Angela Carter (1940-1992, her posthumous booklabel designed by Sebastian Carter of the Rampant Lions Press on upper wrapper).
Dealer Notes
First separate edition. This offprint from a volume of conference paper comprises Angela Carter’s story ‘The Curious Room’ complete with her own introduction and a note. Titled ‘Alice in Prague or The Curious Room’ in American Ghosts and Old World Wonders (1993, pp. 121-139) – where it is reprinted, as so many of Carter’s works in their later iterations, with some changes and adjustments throughout, but without acknowledgement of this earlier publication – this Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired piece was ‘a new story that mixed alchemical motifs with a version of Alice in Wonderland inspired by Jan Švankmajer’s recent film’ of 1988 (E. Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter (London, 2016), p. 390). Carter’s introduction describes ‘The Curious Room’ as a ‘piece of speculation in the form of a short story’ (p. 215) that marries Lewis Carroll’s – or rather the mathematician and logician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s – nonsense with the ‘aesthetic of surrealism’ pursued by Švankmajer. ‘Alice emerges from the looking-glass to find herself in the crystal ball of the English alchemist and magician, Dr. John Dee’, and thereby enters the world of the court of Rudolph II in Prague (p. 216). The resulting text is a wonderful, and classically Carteresque amalgam of alchemical imagery, Renaissance magic at the court of Rudolph II, and Alice’s nonsensical world.

In the course of the 1980s, Carter had increasingly established herself as a writer of note with the publication of some of her most famous works, including the novel Nights at the Circus (1984) and the short story collection Black Venus (1985) as well as her ‘intellectual horror film’ (ODNB) The Company of Wolves, with which she reached more widespread fame. ‘As her superstar reputation was firmly established and she was constantly surrounded by or written to by people who adored her, Carter went to the University of Basel as guest of honour for the symposium “On Strangeness” organised by the Swiss Association of University Teachers of English in May 1989’ (Gordon, p. 390). Carter points out that she considered herself ‘privileged to be able to read’ her story of Alice in Prague, with its connections to alchemy and magic, ‘at the University of Basel, where Paracelsus graduated’ (p. 217).

As mentioned, the version of the story reproduced in American Ghosts and Old World Wonders demonstrates Carter’s characteristic revision of texts for subsequent publications. Most notable of these revisions is the change of the opening: the present, original version commences: "Alice said: ‘Now you are reading a story’ "*

By contrast, the version in American Ghosts and Old World Wonders begins: "In the city of Prague, once, it was winter."

This later version is significantly changed by the removal of the frame narrative in which Alice addresses the reader.

Although the volume On Strangeness is found in a number of institutional libraries in the UK and overseas, this offprint containing Carter’s ‘The Curious Room’ is very rare and we cannot trace any copies in Library Hub Discover or WorldCat. This example is from Angela Carter’s own library, and bears her posthumous booklabel.

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Note for UK collectors: this and all our listed books and manuscripts are available directly from our website:

International collectors: please contact us to arrange shipping and order.
Author CARTER, Angela Olive
Date 1990
Publisher Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag

Price: £49.50

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