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Lady Into Fox
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A newly-married couple are taking a leisurely walk through the woods in England when, without warning, the woman suddenly transforms into a fox. The grief-stricken husband does his best to look after his transformed wife after this astonishing change.
That’s the unlikely premise of Lady Into Fox. Other than the mysterious transformation of the woman, this short work is otherwise completely realistic, placing it in the category of contemporary fantasy or magic realism.
Published in 1922, the book quickly attracted critical attention and praise. It won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Hawthornden Prize, and was included by the writer Rebecca West in a list of the “best imaginative productions” of the 1920s alongside Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.
Lady Into Fox was turned into a ballet in 1939 by the choreographer Andrée Howard, with music based on piano pieces by Arthur Hoenegger. Performed by Ballet Rambert, it was apparently a success.
In 1960, a French writer using the pseudonym “Vercours” wrote a novel titled Sylva directly inspired by Garnett’s novel, in which the reverse transformation occurs: a fox on the run from a hunt is transformed into a naked young woman, who is taken in and cared for by the owner of a nearby manor. This novel, translated into English, was nominated for Best Novel in the Hugo Awards presented by the World Science Fiction Convention in 1963.
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