Antal Szerb: A királyné nyaklánca (The Queen’s Necklace)


The latest addition to my website is Antal Szerb‘s A királyné nyaklánca (The Queen’s Necklace). According to Szerb’s introduction to the book, this is not a novel but then, in his posthumous papers, he claims that it might be sort of a novel. In my view it is perhaps what we might call a popular history. However, it certainly reads like a novel and is clearly written by a novelist. The story it tells is a well-known historical one, that of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. The necklace was made by two German jewellers based in Paris, who hoped to sell it first to Madame Du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress and then, when he died, to Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. However, they got caught up in a scam involving a descendant of the Valois royal house and her fake aristocrat husband, a cardinal, a probably fake magician and a few others. The jewellers and the Cardinal thought the necklace was to be bought by Marie Antoinette. However, she knew nothing of it. When everything came out, Marie Antoinette, however, was blamed by the French public for her role and this was one of the incidents that led to the French Revolution. Szerb tells the story well but, more particularly, goes into some detail into the contemporary state of affairs in France and the whys and wherefores of the impending French Revolution. A novel it is not but it still a fascinating story.

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