This is a unique selection of the best of European literature. The four books collected together in this box are not simply beautifully written stories but also stunning examples of the imaginative genius of four exceptional European writers. From Thomas Mann's and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's moving meditations on time and desire to the inventive glory of Italo Calvino's unique and sparkling narrative and Mikhail Bulgakov's blisteringly satirical cult classic, these novels all offer something unexpected and open up new horizons for the reader.
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Mikhail Bulgakov was born in 1891 and educated in Kiev where he graduated as a doctor in 1916. He rapidly abandoned medicine to write some of the greatest Russian literature of this century. After a lifetime at odds with the stultifying Soviet regime, he died impoverished and blind in 1940, shortly after completing his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita. None of his major fiction was published during his lifetime. Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. During the war he was a member of the Italian Resistance and joined the Communist Party, although he later left in 1957. One of the most respected writers of our time, his best-known works of fiction include Invisible Cities, If On a Winter's Night a Traveller, Marcovaldo and Mr Palomar. In 1981 he was awarded the prestigious French Legion d'Honneur. He died in Siena in 1985. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa was a Sicilian nobleman, Duke of Parma and Prince of Lampedusa. He was born in Palermo in 1896 and died in Rome in 1957. He lived the life of a literary dilettante, was familiar with the great literatures of the world, and was widely travelled. Much of Lampedusa's other work is collected in The Siren and Other Writings (Harvill). Thomas Mann was born in 1875 in Lubeck, of a line of prosperous and influential merchants. Mann was educated under the discipline of North German schoolmasters before working for an insurance office aged nineteen. During this time he secretly wrote his first tale, Fallen, and shortly afterwards he left the insurance office to study art and literature at the University of Munich. After a year in Rome he devoted himself exclusively to writing. He was only twenty-five when Buddenbrooks, his first major novel, was published. Before it was banned and burned by Hitler, it had sold over a million copies in Germany alone. His second great novel, The Magic Mountain, was published in 1924 and the first volume of his tetralogy Joseph and his Brothers in 1933. In 1929 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1933 Thomas Mann left Germany to live in Switzerland. Then, after several previous visits, in 1938 he settled in the United States where he wrote Doctor Faustus and The Holy Sinner. Among the honours he recieved in the USA was his appointment as a Fellow of the Library of Congress. He revisited his native country in 1949 and returned to Switzerland in 1952, where The Black Swan and Confessions of Felix Krull were written and where he died in 1955.
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