The title of this novella has been eluding me for weeks, just at the tip of my tongue, at the back of my throat, at the end of a nerve synapse, on my fingertips. I knew the title was the character’s name (not what I recalled as the first person narrator’s, but the name of the object of his obsession and desire), and I thought it started with an “N.” I’d read it sometime in the nineties but at some point had gotten rid of my slender paperback copy, as I’ve passed along so many books. I’m not even sure where I picked up my copy, but had to be at the old rainbow bookstore on Capitol Hill on Pine Street. Something about the cover appealed to me all those years ago, and I remember finding the writing lyrical but wanting to know more: I couldn’t tell if the story was fiction or memoir, whether a brand new novel written as historical fiction or a reissue of a classic.
Since remembering this novel, but unable to remember the title or author, a month or two ago, I’ve tried searching every category I could think of on the internet: “classic gay novels,” “historical gay fiction,” “classic gay erotica Napoleon era,” (since I think the story takes place around then). Nothing. Then, finally, this morning, doing yet another hopeful Search on my Kindle, since it’s kinda driving me crazy, and coming up with nothing, the name came to me in a flash: Imre. The name itself must have intrigued me, along with the photo on the cover, which I still find haunting and alluring. The model has an expression which I find lacking on many m/m covers today. It really is as if he’s a real person, caught in a moment in time. I want to know what he’s thinking.
My copy of Edward Prime-Stevenson’s novel was apparently printed in 1992. The author was Anonymous. I must have bought it brand new in ’92 or a short while later. Now, with Amazon and the internet, I know more about it than I could discover back then. According to the Amazon blurb:
“Imre is one of the first openly gay American novels with a happy ending. Described by the author as “a little psychological romance,” the narrative follows two men who meet by chance in a café; in Budapest, where they forge a friendship that leads to a series of mutual revelations and gradual disclosures. With its sympathetic characterizations of homosexual men, Imre’s 1906 publication marked a turning point in English literature.”
James Gifford Comments on another Amazon Customer Review: “This is a pulping of the original 1906 novel, which has no explicit sex scenes.” It was published by Masquerade Books, which I know published other novels I acquired at the time; I’m almost certain they published Laura Antoniou’s Marketplace series, now reissued by Circlet Press. Unlike Antoniou’s work, Imre has unfortunately not been converted to ebook format. It appears that Imre was reprinted in 2003 by Broadview Press, possibly without the added sex scenes in the Masquerade version? Only used copies of both print editions are available.
I’ve ordered a used copy of the 1992 version and might buy the 2003 for comparison. I’ll let you know if the book deserves to have taken a spot in my faulty memory bank all these years.