Visualizing The City and the Pillar

France, 1949
France, 1981
Netherlands, 1950
Russia, 2003
Lebanon, 2005

These views of The City and the Pillar show the variety of ways that publishers around the world and over time have represented the novel's story, character and themes. In the row above, the French first edition, not surprisingly, chose neutrality for its cover and renamed the novel "A Young Man by the River." In France in the 1980s, the title remained the same as the first French edition, but the cover became somewhat more true to the novel's content, although with a classical bent. The Dutch first edition, "The Fortress and the Pillar of Salt," captured a sense of the central character's isolation. Two more Dutch editions, with different titles, and by different translators, followed in the next 30 years. In the 21st Century, translations of the book appeared in a changing Russia and a largely unchanged Arabic-speaking Middle East.

FEATURED PAGE: A slide show of covers from The City and the Pillar

Below, the Polish edition of The City and the Pillar depicts a nude man in an abstract and somewhat unnatural position. The text contains half a dozen similarly posed figures at the end of chapters where space permits, and the title means "don't look back at Sodom." The Spanish edition features a photo of Vidal from the 1940s - the same photo used on the cover of the 1995 American reissue of the novel. The images on the cover of the German first edition refer to Jim Willard's Hollywood life as a tennis instructor but not to the novel's sexuality, although the German title, which means "closed circle," recognizes Jim's story as a tragic Bildungsroman that ultimate brings him back to where he began. The discreet Brazilian edition merely depicts two figures locked in a Greco-Roman wrestling pose. Finally, as the world changes, Vidal's reception grows. Who would ever have thought this book would appear in Russia or the Arabic-speaking world. And yet, in the 21st Century, they did.

Poland, 1990
Spain, 1998
Germany, 1986
Brazil, 1989
Denmark, 1951

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