The Austere Academy

The Austere Academy is the fifth novel in the children's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket Kidnapping!, but the release was canceled for unknown reasons. The Baudelaire orphans are sent to a boarding school, overseen by monstrous employees. There, the orphans meet new friends, new enemies, and Count Olaf in disguises.

The Austere Academy
First edition cover
AuthorLemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)
IllustratorBrett Helquist
Cover artistBrett Helquist
CountryUnited States
SeriesA Series of Unfortunate Events
GenreGothic fiction
Absurdist fiction
Publication date
August 31, 2000
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
ISBN0-06-440863-9 (first edition, hardback)
Fic 21
LC ClassPZ7.S6795 Au 2000
Preceded byThe Miserable Mill 
Followed byThe Ersatz Elevator 

It was released in 2000 in the US, and 2001 in the UK, despite The Miserable Mill (the fourth book) being released in 2002.

Plot summary

The book begins with the Baudelaire orphans and Mr. Poe on the grounds of Prufrock Preparatory School. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire meet Carmelita Spats, a rude girl who calls the Baudelaire orphans "cakesniffers." Mr. Poe tells the children to go to Vice Principal Nero's office. On their way there, they notice the school's motto: Memento Mori (Latin for "Remember You Will Die").

Nero explains the rules of Prufrock Prep, reassuring them that his advanced computer system will keep their enemy, Count Olaf, away, but that due to a lack of parental permission to sleep in the students' dormitory, the children will have to live in the "Orphans' Shack". He also explains that Sunny will have to work as his assistant, as she is too young to go to school. Prufrock Prep has punishments different from other schools; for example, if a student enters the main office without an appointment, they would not be allowed silverware. This means that Sunny will have no silverware as she must come in every day without an appointment.

The Baudelaire orphans go to their shack and find that it is crawling with crabs, and has horrible wallpaper and fungus dripping from the ceiling. The orphans go to lunch; Carmelita Spats mocks them again as they try to sit down, however Duncan and Isadora Quagmire ask the Baudelaires to sit with them. The Quagmires' situation is similar to that of the Baudelaire orphans they are triplets, but their brother, Quigley Quagmire, died in a fire along with their parents. They, like the Baudelaire orphans, were left an enormous fortune, theirs in the form of sapphires. Duncan would like to be a journalist, and Isadora is a poet who writes couplets. They both have notebooks which they use to write down observations.

Violet's teacher, Mr. Remora, tells very short, dull stories while eating bananas as the children take notes. Klaus' teacher, Mrs. Bass, obsesses over the metric system and makes her students measure countless dull objects. Later, they are introduced to Coach Genghis. The Baudelaire orphans recognize him as Count Olaf in disguise but pretend to be fooled. Every evening, the students must attend Vice Principal Nero's daily concert, at which he plays the violin unskillfully for 6 hours. At the concert, the Baudelaire orphans decide that they will go to Vice Principal Nero's office the next day to drop hints about Genghis, but are thwarted by his presence in the office.

At lunch, Carmelita Spats delivers a message that the Baudelaire orphans are to meet Coach Genghis on the front lawn at sundown, the time of Nero's violin concert. Genghis makes them paint a circle and run "Special Orphan Running Exercises" (S.O.R.E.) laps around the circle at night, for nine days. Violet and Klaus start failing their tests due to exhaustion. Sunny's work suffers too because she runs out of staples.

Vice Principal Nero tells the children that if they keep failing their tests, they will be tutored by Coach Genghis, and that Sunny will be fired. He says that they will have extra-hard comprehensive exams the next morning. He also demands that they give him nine bags of candy each (which he mistakenly counts as 29 bags of candy, instead of 27), as punishment for missing his concerts, and give Carmelita Spats earrings for each time she brought them a message.

The Baudelaires go see the Quagmires and tell them what has happened. The Quagmires disguise themselves as Klaus and Violet, get a sack of flour to represent Sunny, and do the exercises so that the Baudelaire orphans can study and make staples. The Quagmires leave their notebooks with Violet and Klaus so that they can study. Violet invents a staple-making device (using a small crab, a potato, metal rods, creamed spinach, and a fork) and makes staples while Klaus reads the notebooks aloud.

The next morning, Vice Principal Nero and the two teachers, Mr. Remora and Mrs. Bass, come to the Orphans' Shack. They test Violet and Klaus, and give Sunny a stack of papers to staple. All three of them pass, without missing a single question/messing up a single stack of papers to staple. Coach Genghis arrives, having discovered, by trying to kick Sunny, that she had been substituted with a sack of flour. Genghis uncovers the Quagmires' disguises as a result, and gives them canteen duty. The orphans, unable to stand it any longer, attempt to reveal that Coach Genghis is Count Olaf. About that time, Mr. Poe comes to deliver the candy and earrings. Vice Principal Nero tells him that the orphans have been caught "cheating", and announces that the Baudelaire orphans are going to be expelled, despite Mrs. Bass and Mr. Remora's attempts to defend them.

The Baudelaire orphans tell Mr. Poe that Coach Genghis is Count Olaf. Coach Genghis runs out of the shack, and after the orphans manage to remove his disguise, he succeeds in kidnapping the Quagmires. The two lunch ladies remove their metal masks and reveal themselves as Count Olaf's assistants, the white-faced women. The orphans see Olaf's assistants shoving the Quagmires into an old car. Before they close the door, Duncan yells to the Baudelaire orphans "Look in the notebooks! V.F.D.!" before they are captured. However, Olaf steals the notebooks before he and his henchmen drive away.

Cultural references

  • The names Isadora and Duncan came from Isadora Duncan, a famous dancer, who was killed when her scarf was caught in a sports car's wheels.
  • Prufrock may be a reference to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", a poem by T. S. Eliot.
  • Vice Principal Nero is a reference to the Emperor Nero, a Roman Emperor whose reign is often associated with tyranny and greed. Emperor Nero allegedly "fiddled while Rome burned." Emperor Nero was also famous for forcing many of his subjects to sit through extended theatrical pieces created and performed by himself. This is reflected in Vice Principal Nero's awful violin recitals.
  • Genghis Khan, a famous Mongolian chieftain, shares his name with Coach Genghis, Count Olaf's disguise in this book.
  • Mrs. Bass and Mr. Remora share their names with types of fish, as did the former gym teacher Miss Tench.
  • When Isadora mentions she writes poetry, Sunny shrieks Sappho, which is the name of a female Greek poet.
  • The book's cover is a reference to the classic novel Oliver Twist.
  • The UK version of the book cover is completely different. It shows Carmelita Spats glaring at Violet, Klaus and Sunny while they are getting their food.

Special editions

The Austere Academy: or, Kidnapping!

The Austere Academy; or, Kidnapping![1] was set to be a paperback release of The Austere Academy, designed to mimic Victorian penny dreadfuls. The book was set to include approximately seven new illustrations, and the fifth part of a serial supplement entitled The Cornucopian Cavalcade, which was to include a 13-part comic by Michael Kupperman entitled The Spoily Brats, and an advice column written by Lemony Snicket, along with other additions.[2] However, for unknown reasons, this edition was never released.

Audio book

An audio book of this novel was released. It was the last audio book that was read by the author, Daniel Handler, under the pseudonym of Lemony Snicket. All the succeeding audio books are read by Tim Curry.


  • Brazilian Portuguese: ""Inferno no Colégio Interno" (Hell in the Boarding School), Cia. das Letras, 2000, ISBN 85-359-0274-0
  • Finnish: "Omituinen opinahjo" (A Weird School), WSOY, 2004, ISBN 951-0-28566-8
  • French: "Piège au collège" (Trap at School)
  • Greek: "Η Άτεγκτη Ακαδημία" (The Inexorable Academy)
  • Italian: "L'Atroce Accademia" ( The Atrocious Academy )
  • Persian: "مدرسه سخت‌گیر" (The Strict School)
  • Korean: "공포의 학교" (The School of Fear), Munhakdongnae Publishing Co, Ltd., 2004, ISBN 978-89-546-0838-1
  • Japanese: "おしおきの寄宿学校" (The Punishing Boarding School), Soshisha, 2002, ISBN 4-7942-1173-2
  • Norwegian: Den skrekkelige skolen (The Terrible School), Karoline Melli, Cappelen Damm, 2002, ISBN 9788202211530
  • Russian: "Изуверский интернат" (Bigoted Boardinghouse), Azbuka, 2004, ISBN 5-352-00651-4
  • Spanish: "Una academia muy austera" (A Very Austere Academy)
  • Turkish: "Katı Kurallar Okulu" (School of Strict Rules)
  • Polish : "Akademia antypatii" (The Academy of Antipathy)


The opening of the novel was partially adapted during the closing moments of the first season of the television series adaptation by Netflix, with the remaining plot was adapted as the first and second episodes of the second season.[3]

See also


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