|Tilda Swinton as male Orlando in the filmed version.|
by Virginia Woolf
NINE Virginia Woolf novels in the 1001 Books Project. There can be no question that within the confines of the canonization implicit in the 1001 Books Project, the 1920s are a fulcrum point, after which the vast majority of the books on the list were written. Orlando is like her take on a fairy tale. The title character, who it must be said bears some small debt to Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray character, is an English gentleman born in the 17th century. He is the lover of Queen Elizabeth, and a great beauty with a "well turned leg." Seeking to avoid a suitor, he becomes the Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, where he wakes up after a period of political turmoil as a woman.
She then returns to England, now in the 18th century, where she seeks to claim to her estate from some grasping illegitimate children. She pow-wows with 18th century wits like Alexander Pope. As the 19th century dawns, she publishes a poem and gets married. In the 20th century, she has a child, and the book ends with Orland speeding off in her automobile in October 1928. Orlando shows Woolf fully in control of the reins of modernist technique, blending genres and different levels of self-awareness without letting any one aspect overwhelm the story of Orlando.
To call Orlando a milestone in the development of LGBT literature is a mild understatement. Orlando was an actual popular hit, and must have literally inspired of thousands of people struggling with their own issues related to sexuality.