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Pilate's wife
H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), 1886-1961.
Publication Information:
New York New Directions Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
xvii, 135 pages ; 20 cm
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Veronica--Pontius Pilate's wife--is beautiful, brilliant, and weary of a life spent in her boudoir and the Roman court. When one of her lovers sends her disguised as a servant to a seer, she feels suddenly alive, experiencing "sudden pre-visions of inner splendor." The seer, Mnevis, arouses the artist, the dreamer in her, eventually telling her of a Jew, a "love-god," who believes women have an important place in the spiritual hierarchy. What follows is a chain of events in which Veronica commits the one genuine act of her life, offering Jesus a "way out" before his crucifixion.

This revision of biblical history--in the tradition of D. H. Lawrence's The Man Who Died and Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ--is not just a novel; but part of the ongoing dialogue about the feminine and divine. Pilate's Wife was written by H.D. in 1929, revised in 1934, and is now finally published by New Directions, edited with an introduction by H.D. scholar Joan Burke. It is a testament to Alicia Ostriker's claim that, among the women poets and novelists of this century, "H.D. is the most profoundly religious, the most seriously engaged in spiritual quest."

Author Notes

Hilda Doolittle was born in September 1886 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She is a poet and a novelist known as being a member of the poetry group avant-garde Imagists who believed in writing about what they chose. This later lead to her writings on modernism. She moved to London in 1911 where she met Ezra Pound who encouraged her writing. Her poetry was published in the English Review and the Transatlantic Review. Her work often borrowed images from classical Greek literature to evoke a particular feeling in the reader. In 1911 she sailed to Europe and met Richard Aldington - a poet whop would help her in her career and along with Pound the three poets became known as the "three original Imagists". Pound gave her the nickname H.D. Imagiste and it stuck. Some of her poetry collections are Helen in Egypt and Hermetic Definition. She also wrote several books such as "Hermione" and "The Gift".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

H.D. is the pseudonym used by notable Twenties poet Hilda Doolittle. Telling Pilate's story from the viewpoint of his wife, Claudia Procula, H.D. is quick to point out that she preferred to refer to Claudia as "Veronica" to help visualize the story. The name change didn't help. As Veronica, a bored Roman court wife, dabbles with her lovers and intrigues, one of her lovers arranges for her to visit a seer named Mnevis. The seer opens a new world to Veronica, and as escape from her nebulous dissatisfaction becomes the focus of her life, she devotes herself to plotting to help a condemned prisoner named Jesus escape execution. While the story hints that Jesus escaped death by being drugged and spirited away by Roman soldiers, the novelty of this angle is lost in the tedium of the writing. Although the story would have been shocking had it been published in its time, today it will interest only H.D. scholars at best. Contemporary collections can choose James R. Mills's Memoirs of Pontius Pilate (LJ 4/1/00) instead. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.