Thomas Hardy is at once amongst the most constantly read of novelists of the nineteenth century, and yet, at the same time, the most challenging and misread of authors. He lends himself to popular adaptation, as the BBC’s 2008 production of, predictably, Tess of the D’Urbervilles demonstrates. Yet, as faithful as such adaptation — or what I would term ‘translation’ — might be to the narrative, that which is most arguably ‘Hardy’ is occluded, if not erased almost entirely. With Hardy (and, indeed, almost any novelist), there is so much which does not translate. In Hardy’s case, though, the untranslatable is of greater significance, and so remains, encrypted and in full view, on almost every page. Tess and Jude the Obscure excepted, Hardy’s dozen or so other novels still receive less attention than is their due (unless by some Hardy critics), and it is in part the purpose of this book to redress that balance a little. To this end, Tess and Jude are given less attention than some might think they deserve, and I explain, without justifying, my reasons for this in the last chapter.
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