Maarten Maartens Rediscovered by John Schwartz

Maarten Maartens Rediscovered

The Short Stories
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Schwartz (Maarten Maartens Rediscovered, 2015) offers a second volume summarizing the fiction of a Dutch author.

Though he has since faded from memory, Maartens was one of the most popular writers in English at the turn of the 20th century. This volume summarizes his detective novel, The Black-Box Murder (1889), as well as selections from his four volumes of short fiction: Some Women I Have Known (1901), My Poor Relations: Stories of Dutch Peasant Life (1905), The Woman’s Victory (1906), and Brothers All: My Stories of Dutch Peasant Life (1909). Using numerous quotes from the original text, Schwartz recounts Maarten’s tales of duchesses, doting mothers, clever daughters, dysfunctional families, wealthy elites, and country folks. Some of the shorter ones, such as “The Woman’s Victory,” which follows the comic dialogue of a recently married couple on an English train, appear unabridged, allowing the reader a glimpse at the unfiltered work of the writer. Another story presented in its entirety is “Lord Venetia,” a tale about a powerful banker that expresses a sentiment that may strike readers as prophetically contemporary: “He was a great banker. He was a great blackguard. It would not be necessary to say the same thing twice, but that the world is so slow to understand.” As with the previous volume, in which Schwartz gave the same treatment to Maartens’ novels, the reader may question the point of summarizing these stories in detail rather than reprinting them or critiquing them. Schwartz attempts to head off this question in his preface: “Why abridge short stories and not reprint them in full? The main rationale is that today’s readers might not be incentivized enough to read four volumes of short stories in their entirety by a ‘forgotten’ writer, but might read the stories in a condensed form.” As an unusually committed enterprise in reiteration, the reader cannot help but be drawn into the book, which forces (if perhaps inadvertently) a rumination on artistic intent and the nature of storytelling. Even so, one wishes that Schwartz would republish the original works, which would, despite his misgivings, almost certainly find a wider readership than these summaries.

An odd, if oddly compelling, summarization of a forgotten writer’s works.

Publisher: Willow Manor Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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