The Queen's Necklace
By Antal Szerb
A witty and erudite love letter to a bygone age, from one of Europe's last great humanists
In August 1785, Paris buzzed with a scandal that had everything—an eminent churchman, a female fraudster, a part-time prostitute and the hated Queen herself. Its centrepiece was the most expensive diamond necklace ever assembled, and the tangle of fraud, folly, blindness and self-delusion it provoked. The humiliation the affair brought on the royal family contributed to their appalling deaths in the Revolution just four years later. In this unusual, witty and often surprising version of the story, the great Hungarian novelist Antal Szerb takes the narrative as a standpoint from which to survey the entire age—including aspects of it seldom considered by more orthodox historians. The author's vast knowledge is worn very lightly and the book teems with amusing anecdotes, but it is, at heart, a deeply personal work, a remarkable gesture of defiance against the brutal world in which it was written.
Translated by Len Rix
Cover illustration by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun
Published 23 June 2011