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The Book of Merlyn

The Book of Merlyn

(Book #2 in The Once and Future King series)


Book Overview: The Book of Merlyn

This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth, rediscovered in a collection of T. H. White's papers at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, spent twenty-six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list following its publication in 1977. While preparing for his final, fatal battle with his bastard son, Mordred, Arthur returns to the Animal Council with Merlyn, where the deliberations center on ways to abolish war. More self-revealing than any other of White's books, Merlyn shows his mind at work as he agonized over whether to join the fight against Nazi Germany while penning the epic that would become The Once and Future King. The Book of Merlyn has been cited as a major influence by such illustrious writers as Kazuo Ishiguro, J. K. Rowling, Helen Macdonald, Neil Gaiman, and Lev Grossman.

"Arriving from beyond the curve of time and apparently from the grave, The Book of Merlyn stirs its own pages, saying, wait: you didn't get the whole story. . . . It gives us a final glimpse of those two immortal characters, Wart and Merlyn, up close, slo-mo, with a considered and affectionate scrutiny. The book is an elegiac posting from a master storyteller of the twentieth century. Its reissue in our next century is just as welcome as when it first arrived forty years ago. . . . Certainly the moral questions about the military use of force perplex the world still. . . . The efficacy of treaties, the trading of insults among the potentates of the day, the testing of weapons, the weaponizing of trade--these strategies are still front and center. Rather terrifyingly so. We do well to revisit what that old schoolteacher of children, Merlyn, has been trying to point out to us about power and responsibility."
--Gregory Maguire, from the foreword

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T.H. White, born as Terence Hanbury White in 1906, was an esteemed British author and scholar recognized for his distinguished contribution to the realm of fantasy fiction. Born in Bombay, India, to English parents, his childhood experiences fed into the depth and complexity of his works. White is best known for his enduring Arthurian saga, "The Once and Future King," which has not only gained eminence as an essential part of 20th-century literature but was instrumental in reinvigorating the Arthurian legend for a new generation. Despite graduating with a first-class degree in English from Queen's College, Cambridge in 1928, White chose the path of a writer over academia. This decision bore fruit as his fabulist novel, "Mistress Masham’s Repose," and an anthropomorphic story, "The Goshawk," garnered him extensive popularity. However, his unparalleled fame came with the creation of "The Once and Future King." This work is well-regarded for its unusual blend of classical lore and whimsy, exploring themes of chivalry, human nature, and the corrupting touch of power. T.H. White's unfortunate early death in 1964 left an indelible void in the world of literature. An exceptional observer of human and animal behavior, White's works continue to inspire audiences with their wit, sagacity, and uncanny insights into the human psyche. His life holds testament to the extraordinary liberation of the imagination, marking him as one of the pioneering figures of modern fantasy literature.


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