Biography and pseudo biography of Henry James in Dan Simmons’s detective novel “The Fifth Heart”

Abstract: 

Novice researchers of Henry James’s works accept “The Fifth Heart” by Dan Simmons as a realist work, which allegedly raises the issue of American and British national identity. However, this novel has a different interpretation. The article shows that the novel should be referred to the “mainstream literature”. Detective Sherlock Holmes investigates mysterious suicide of Clover Adams, a real-life wife of historian and politician Henry Adams. Such renowned authors as Henry James, Henry Adams, Mark Twain, and William Dean Howells become fictional personalities, “a sign” in Simmons’s work, although their discourse consists of actual letters and diary records. The dynamic plot, revolving around the figure of Sherlock Holmes, is composed of unbelievable fantastic, almost fairy tale events. Holmes appears as a kind of superman who has power over the most extraordinary situations. Impossible adventures are substantiated by documentary details: addresses of clubhouses, drinking establishments and nobility mansions, travel itineraries - all these give the impression of authenticity. Simmons treats James’s biography in a voluntaristic way creating a pseudo biography of the author of “The Portrait of a Lady” who allegedly makes a decision to commit suicide because of a cold reception of his novels. Despite the author’s belletristic mastery, numerous clichés, found in his work, fill some readers with “enthusiastic awe”, others experience confusion over his voluntaristic interpretation of Henry James’s personality.

Key words: 

Dan Simmons, Henry James, Sherlock Holmes, “The Fifth Heart”, detective, biography, pseudo biography, fiction.

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