Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation. Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating! This week’s prompt is:
What’s a somewhat obscure classic you wish more people would read?
I always love a good swashbuckler full of intrigue, action, and romance–all of it a little melodramatic and sometimes predictable, but always ultimately satisfying. The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) by Anthony delivers on just these swashbuckling promises and, better yet, it has a sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, to continue the fun. The plot of the first book follows Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll as he vacations in the fictional country of Ruritania, only to find once there that the future king Rudolf, Rassendyll’s distant cousin, has been kidnapped by his evil brother Michael. Rassendyll must impersonate the king at the coronation, woo his future bride Princess Flavia, and find a way to free King Rudolf all without anyone catching onto the switch. Let the drama ensue!
The Prisoner of Zenda is not entirely obscure. There are many movie versions and Rupert of Hentzau has also been adapted to film and ran as a TV series in the 1960s in Britain. There is even a subgenre known as Ruritanian romance. However, I have not ever seen a blogger mention the book. But fans of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter, or The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas may also find these books entertaining.