Once described as the ‘longest and most charming love-letter in literature’, the Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is edited by Brenda Lyons with an introduction and notes by Sandra M. Gilbert in Penguin Classics.
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Written for Virginia Woolf’s intimate friend, the charismatic writer Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is a playful mock ‘biography’ of a chameleonic historical figure, immortal and ageless, who changes sex and identity on a whim. First masculine, then feminine, Orlando begins life as a young sixteenth-century nobleman, then gallops through three centuries to end up as a woman writer in Virginia Woolf’s own time. A wry commentary on gender roles and modes of history, Orlando is also, in Woolf’s own words, a light-hearted ‘writer’s holiday’ which delights in ambiguity and capriciousness.