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Writing about reading “The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde”

I’m currently reading “The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde” by Peter Ackroyd, a fictional memoir written in Wilde’s voice.

I’m usually quite blown over by a strong voice, but in this book, the voice is not only strong, it is as if Wilde had risen from the dead to write through Ackroyd’s pen. I’ve read a whole lot of Wilde, and as a teenager was fascinated by his dreamlike stories, and his mega-acerbic wit. This comes forth in full force in this book, written as a journal by Wilde in the months before his death. I couldn’t resist scanning a page, this page set me off laughing so hard when I read it:

To me, this is pitch-perfect Oscar Wilde, I can hear him, see him, and can believe Ackroyd saw him too, when he was writing.

The novel seems well-researched, and there are sprinklings of names like Shaw and Gide, which makes it so very atmospheric and reminiscent of Wilde’s times. But this is Ackroyd’s speciality, because he writes “historiographic metafiction—an experimental, postmodern technique that blurs distinctions between imagination and historical fact.”

This is an old book that came out in 1983, and is probably out of print by now, which is a shame. I borrowed my copy from the National Library of Singapore, and will have to return it next week.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

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