The Myrtle & The Rose

by Annie Messina

...describes in highly aestheticized terms the love affair between a prince in an uncharted Arabian kingdom and a beautiful slave boy.
(Publisher’s Weekly)

[one] long variation on the theme [“each man kills the thing he loves”], presented as a fable.... We find in this little marvel, by turns, the abstract and conceptual tone of a moralist and the provocative fantasy of a sly storyteller.
(Le Monde)

In recent years, more and more fiction by 20th-century Italian women has been translated into English..... A valuable addition to this list, Messina’s novel is beautifully translated with an informative introduction by Jessie Bright. Messina was 72 years old when the novel appeared in Italy (1982), and she had published only one other work before its appearance. This is one of those miraculous works that emerge out of the silence to enrich readers’ lives. More like an ancient Arabic fable than a contemporary novel, the book recounts the great love of a prince for a slave boy in a far-off land of yore. It is both a highly entertaining tale of intrigue, treachery, self-sacrifice, and transformative love, and a sort of meditation on the ethics and meaning of platonic love. The book recounts many rousing adventures and has a surprise ending that is genuinely unforgettable. Highly recommended for all collections.
— Rebecca West, University of Chicago (Choice, Oct. 1998)

The Myrtle & The Rose is an historical novel set in a small principality controlled by a caliph of Baghdad. Messina’s novel is a cross between The Thousand and One Nights and Mary Renault’s historical works set in classical Greece.... Like any good historical novel, Messina’s work gives contemporary readers a perspective on the evolution of our own society and cultural values, especially the development of inequitable power relationships related to gender and class.
(Kenneth Scambray, L’Italo Americano, March 30, 2000)

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