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Orlando by Virginia Woolf (Books 2020, 22)

This is a book about history, biography, gender — and writing.

It’s presented as a biography of the titular character, who starts as the son of a noble family. It’s written for, and partly based an the life of, Woolf’s friend Vita Sackville-West.

Famously, Orlando’s gender (or biological sex) changes partway through the novel. She spends the latter part of it as a woman. She also lives for four or five hundred years — and presumably is living still. She’s barely got started by the end of the book.1

The interesting thing about the time difference is that he/she doesn’t experience the passage of hundreds of years, as far as we are shown. It’s like time passes at a different rate for her. She reaches the age of around 30, but the world has moved on through ages around her.

I enjoyed this greatly, and as I said a while back, it sparked some ideas and made me think of associations with Iain Banks. Which can’t be bad.


  1. Indeed she/he turns up in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, switching back and forth seemingly at random. 

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