The Fifty Year Sword

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The Fifty Year Sword
AuthorMark Z. Danielewski
Original titleHet Vijftig Jaars Zwaard
Cover artistPeter van Sambeek
LanguageDutch, English
GenreShort stories
PublisherDe Bezige Bij
Publication date
Holland edition 31 October 2005 and US edition in October 2012
Media typePrint (Hardback)
ISBN90-234-1856-5 (orig. Dutch)
& ISBN 90-234-1877-8 (Eng. trans.)
Preceded byThe Whalestoe Letters 
Followed byOnly Revolutions 

The Fifty Year Sword is a novella by Mark Z. Danielewski.


Chintana, a seamstress in East Texas, finds herself responsible for five orphans who are not only captivated by a storyteller’s tale of vengeance but by the long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a malice retold and now foretold.

Much like Danielewski's previous works, The Fifty Year Sword uses unusual formatting and color throughout. Five different colors are used for quotation marks in order to signal which character is speaking.

Publication history[edit]

The Fifty Year Sword was published in both Dutch and English by publisher De Bezige Bij, but only 1,000 first edition English copies were released. 51 of those copies are signed in marker with a "Z" (varying in color and number to coincide with the 5 colored quotation marks that signify different speakers in the text), while the first copy is signed "Mark Danielewski" in ink. A second English edition of 1,000 was released in October 2006, while a slightly revised trade edition was published by Pantheon in October 2012.

Live performance[edit]

On Halloween night between 2010 and 2012, Danielewski conducted a live performance of The Fifty Year Sword at the REDCAT theater in Walt Disney Concert Hall. The performances featured five voices and large-scale shadows by shadowcaster Christine Marie.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Mark Z. Danielewski's Halloween Party. Los Angeles Times. 1 November 2010.
  2. ^ The Fifty Year Sword. REDCAT Website. August 2011.
  3. ^ Deborah Vankin (2012-10-27). "Mark Z. Danielewski: The writer as needle and thread". The Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]