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  • Published: 1 October 2009
  • ISBN: 9780099513223
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

Miss Herbert

'Thoughtful and frequently hilarious... It is also a work of art, a new form' - A.S. Byatt, Financial Times

The secret history of novelists is often a history of exile and tourism - a history of language learning. Like the story of Gustave Flaubert and Juliet Herbert, it is a history of loss and mistakes. As Flaubert finished Madame Bovary, Miss Herbert, his niece's governess, translated the novel into English. But this translation has since been lost.

Miss Herbert provides a map to the imaginary country shared between writers and readers. For translation, and emigration, is the way into a new history of the novel. We assume that we can read novels in translation. We also assume that style does not translate. But the history of the novel is the history of style. Miss Herbert explores the solutions to this conundrum.

This book demonstrates a new way of reading internationally - complete with maps, illustrations, and helpful diagrams. And it includes a slim appendix: 'Mademoiselle O', a story by Vladimir Nabokov, which he worked on in three languages, over thirty years, and whose original French version is now translated into English by Adam Thirlwell.

Adam Thirlwell was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013.

  • Published: 1 October 2009
  • ISBN: 9780099513223
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

Adam Thirlwell

Adam Thirlwell is the author of two novels, Politics and The Escape;a novella, Kapow!; and a project including an essay-book – which won a Somerset Maugham Award – and a compendium of translations edited for McSweeney’s. His work is translated into thirty languages. He has twice been selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

Also by Adam Thirlwell

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Praise for Miss Herbert

A sort of literary common-place book...a deft and thought-provoking piece of work'

Independent on Sunday

Every page has good things



Sunday Times

A thought-provoking book...written with intelligence, wit and great enthusiasm


The scholarly showmanship is impressive and he flourishes his paradoxes with panache

Tom Deveson, Sunday Times


Colin Waters, Sunday Herald

Thirlwell loves these people and it shows

William Leith, Evening Standard

Miss Herbert is certainly accomplished

Philippa Lewis, Observer

Lots of things here are superb. He tells you about Flaubert, Proust, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Chekov and Nabokov, and unearths lovely details about them...Thrilwell loves these people, and it shows

William Leith, The Scotsman

You don't have to read half the books he analyses, or speak half the languages he quotes, to enjoy this engaging book

James Smart, Guardian

This year's most richly pleasurable reading experience

Sunday Telegraph

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