A unpublished short story by poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, written when she was a college student, will be released as a standalone book in January.
The Guardian reports that “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom,” which Plath wrote when she was 20, will be published by Faber & Faber next year. It’s one of several short stories the publisher plans to release in England to celebrate its 90th anniversary.
Plath wrote the story in 1952 when she was a junior at Smith College. Peter K. Steinberg, the co-editor of a book of Plath’s letters, told the Guardian that the story is “an important work and different to what Plath’s readers are used to seeing. So it’s exciting that it will shortly be available for reading and consideration.”
“Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom” follows the title character as she’s escorted onto a train car by her parents, and meets a woman who serves as a travel guide of sorts.
The Guardian printed an excerpt from the story, which reads: “In one of the corn fields a scarecrow caught her eye, crossed staves propped aslant, and the corn husks rotting under it. The dark ragged coat wavered in the wind, empty, without substance. And below the ridiculous figure black crows were strutting to and fro, pecking for grains in the dry ground.”
Although the story is bound to excite Plath’s fans, it didn’t impress the editors of Mademoiselle magazine, who rejected it after Plath submitted it, the Independent reports.
The story belonged to Plath’s estate before it was auctioned off by Bonhams in 2016, selling for $799. The rejection letter from Mademoiselle was part of the lot.
Steinberg told the Guardian that he thought Plath’s story was inspired by centuries-old literature.
“I think Plath here is attempting to feminize and modify some biblical stories, as well as Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ by having Mary Ventura enact a journey by modern transport into the underworld,” he said. “Mary in the end is presented with an opportunity to release herself from a fate she did not choose.”
Plath was one of the key figures in the confessional poetry movement of the 1950s. She is best known for her novel “The Bell Jar” and poetry collection “Ariel,” the latter of which was published after her 1963 suicide.
“Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom” will be one of several standalone stories published by Faber & Faber in Britain next year, the Independent reports. Others include Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Come Rain or Come Shine” and Flannery O’Connor’s classic “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”
While an American publication may be in the works, the U.S. division of Faber & Faber has not confirmed whether the new Plath story will be available here.