The Counterplot

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The Counterplot
AuthorHope Mirrlees
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

The Counterplot is the second novel by Hope Mirrlees. Written in 1923, it was originally published in 1924, and is the only one of Mirrlees's three novels to take place in then contemporary settings, Madeleine: One of Love's Jansenists (1919) being a historical novel, while Lud-in-the-Mist (1926) is a fantasy.

The novel's protagonist is Teresa Lane, a woman of 28, living in Plasencia, a villa in the South-East of England, shortly after World War I, who studies the spectacle of her family life with the intent of transforming it into art; the result is a play, The Key, written by Teresa after the style of the Spanish autos sacramentales and set in Seville during the reign of Pedro the Cruel, the text of which is reproduced in its entirety within chapter eleven.

A list of books by the same publisher, appended at the end of the novel, includes a brief description of The Counterplot, calling it "a study of the literary temperament".

Hope Mirrlees dedicated The Counterplot to Jane Harrison, with an epigram taken from Odysseus' address to Nausicaä in The Odyssey. (Harrison was a renowned classical scholar, a former teacher and the close friend of the author. Mirrlees's previous novel, Madeleine: One of Love's Jansenists, also contained a significant reference to The Odyssey, in chapter 26's fanciful retelling of the story of Odysseus and Nausicaä.)

As in all three of Mirrlees's novels, a drawing of the constellation Ursa Major appears printed on the last page of The Counterplot.

A French translation appeared in 1929 under the title Le choc en retour, tr. Simone Martin-Chauffier, published by Plon, Paris.