South Wind (novel)

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South Wind
Author Norman Douglas
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Set in Kingdom of Italy
Publisher Martin Secker
Publication date

South Wind is a 1917 novel by British author Norman Douglas.[1] It is Douglas' most famous book[2] and his only success as a novelist.[3] It is set on an imaginary island called Nepenthe, located off the coast of Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea,[1] a thinly fictionalized description of Capri's residents and visitors. The narrative concerns twelve days during which Thomas Heard, a bishop returning to England from his diocese in Africa, yields his moral vigour to various influences. Philosophical hedonism pervades much of Douglas' writing,[3] and the novel's discussion of moral and sexual issues caused considerable debate.[4]

The South Wind of the title is the Sirocco which wreaks havoc with the islanders' sense of decency and morality.[5] Much of the natural detail in the book is provided by Capri and other Mediterranean locations that Douglas knew well.[3] The island's name Nepenthe denotes a drug of Egyptian origin (mentioned in the Odyssey) which was capable of banishing grief or trouble from the mind.[6] The novel was written in Capri and in London, and after its publication in June 1917 it went through seven editions rapidly, achieving startling large-scale success.[7] Critics at the time complained about the lack of a well-constructed plot.[8] The book was adapted for the stage in London in 1923 by Isabel C. Tippett,[3] and Graham Greene considered the possibility of writing a film script based on it.[9]

In Dorothy Sayers's 1926 detective novel Clouds of Witness, Lord Peter Wimsey goes through the possessions of a murdered man – a young British man living in Paris, whose morality had been put in question. Finding a copy of South Wind Wimsey remarks "Our young friend works out very true to type".


  1. ^ a b South Wind, Literary Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Norman Douglas, Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ a b c d Stringer 1996, p. 634.
  4. ^ Ousby 1996, p. 118.
  5. ^ Rennison 2009. entry for Norman Douglas
  6. ^ Orel 1992, p. 69.
  7. ^ Orel 1992, p. 73.
  8. ^ Orel 1992, p. 68.
  9. ^ Orel 1992, p. 77.


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