In 1929, who was afraid of “A Room of Your Own” by Virginia Woolf?

No one was more critical than Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) of her own writings. “I have just completed the last corrections of Women and fiction or A room of your own [A Room of One’s Own]. I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. Is it good or bad? This book has, I believe, a restless life. You think you see the creature arching its back and galloping off although, as usual, I find it to be largely washed out, inconsistent and set on too high a tuning fork. », We read in his Journal in the fall of 1929.

Creative power of women

The British writer has already gone through such horrors, then swept away by the fervor aroused by her novels: The Crossing of Appearances (1915), Mrs Dalloway (1925), Orlando (1928)… She fears that she will not be taken seriously, that her feminist demands will earn her ridicule. Of course, she speculates, it will always be about the charm of her text and the liveliness of her tone. But what will happen to the rest, to what she writes on the material and legal restrictions on the creative power of women, on the abandonment of the intellectual training of girls in favor of boys or on their strict assignment to maternity ? “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she wants to write fiction”, Woolf repeats.

A room of your own or A place of your own (according to the more accurate translation proposed by Marie Darrieussecq at Denoël in 2016) was published on October 24, 1929 by Hogarth Press, the publishing house that the English novelist co-founded with her husband, Leonard Woolf, in 1917, and almost simultaneously by Harcourt Brace & Co in the United States. At this date, the reputation of the novelist is well established and her prestige already immense. And all the newspapers in the UK, from Sheffield Independent to theExeter and Plymouth Gazette, mention, at least in the form of a paragraph, his new work. It will sell 10,000 copies in four months. A rather unexpected bookstore success during the Great Depression.

Read also, by Virginie Despentes: Virginia Woolf, the lively breath

The national dailies are not mistaken, which underline the major importance of this six-part essay, an overhaul of two conferences that the novelist gave in 1928. The Guardian, for example – who in 2016 will rank him among the 100 best non-fiction books of all time – celebrates the effects of a reading that leads to a new outlook on life. No less dithyrambic review in the Los Angeles Times, from the pen of Lillian C. Ford: “By quiet but nonetheless brilliant reasoning, Woolf comes to the conclusion that we can still shine; that our great creative period is in the future. If you miss this book, which is deep and subtle, softly ironic and beautifully written, you will have missed an important reading experience. “

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