'House of All Nations is Christina Stead's 1938 gripping portrayal of financial world success. Set in an exclusive European bank in the heady days of the early thirties, Stead weaves a remarkable tale of greedy, devious and shady characters, all brought together by their love of money. The director of the bank, Jules Bertillon, leads these gamblers, crooks and prospectors on a treacherous journey navigating political and natural disasters, and using both to his advantage.
'House of All Nations has never been more relevant, as Stead's remarkable work speaks loudly about the modern markets. ' (Publication summary)
'Christina Stead (1902–1983) was an Australian novelist and short-story writer acclaimed for her satirical wit and penetrating psychological characterizations. Stead enjoyed an international reputation in the 1930s and beyond, then went out of favor as a communist-affiliated writer, until she was rediscovered by feminist critics. Her standing is considerable, and in Australia she vies with Patrick White for the laurel of finest Australian novelist.
'In this book, author Michael Ackland argues that the single most important influence on Stead’s life, socialism, has been seriously neglected in studies of her life and work. Ackland delves into Stead’s political formation prior to her departure for London in 1928, arguing that considerable insights can be added to the known record by reviewing these years within a specifically political context, as well as by interrogating Stead’s own accounts of key persons and events. He examines her novels, from Seven Poor Men of Sydney to I’m Dying Laughing and The Man Who Loved Children, and focuses on Stead’s conception of history, of capitalist finance, and on the significance of the key historical moments that frame her works.
'In tracing the trajectory of her work, Ackland illuminates how Stead was, as a well-informed Marxist critic underscored, a product of thirties. Steeped in socialist literature and steeled to withstand ideological adversity, Stead emerged at the end of the decade a strongly committed novelist, whose intellectual idealism and convictions could, as coming decades would show, long withstand privation, heartbreaks and the unwelcome lessons of history.
'This is an important book for collections in Australian literature, comparative literature, world literature, and women's studies.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Stead composed House of All Nations (1938) at a time of unprecedented economic and political crisis in the West, and the urgency of this situation is reflected in the speed and scope of this composition, and in the major target of her satire: finance capitalism. Her depiction of this Marxist concept, as well as specific allusions to the master's writings, are examined in detail to demonstrate her ideological position and putative aims.' (Publication abstract)
Rooney examines how 'Stead's fiction intricately negotiates her encounters with these [the banking and Popular Front politics worlds] divergent "phallocracies" through the multivalent and liminal figure of the secretary.' Rooney notes that while 'Stead's narrative use of the male political secretary safeguards her identity as a socially accepatable women' it also provides 'a context for discerning the nature of her contribution to 1930s debates about capitalism, communism and revolution.'