Matthew Reynolds

Matthew Reynolds is a fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. His new novel, The World Was All Before Them, will be out early next year.

Der Jazz des Linguas: Diego Marani

Matthew Reynolds, 8 November 2012

Diego Marani works in the Directorate-General for Interpretation at the European Commission, and he writes fiction full of ideas prompted by his day job. New Finnish Grammar, translated last year, is heavy with fear at what it might be like to lose language altogether. The hero is discovered in Trieste in 1943, with no words, memory or identity. He is thought (mistakenly) to be a Finn called...

A Smaller Island: David Mitchell

Matthew Reynolds, 10 June 2010

David Mitchell’s new novel is set on and around an artificial island called Dejima, constructed in the bay of Nagasaki to house representatives of the Vereenigde Oest-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company), the sole official conduit for European trade with Japan during almost all of the rule of the Tokugawa Shoguns (1603-1867). Dejima is tiny: ‘two hundred paces along its...

The Taste of Peapods: E.L. Doctorow

Matthew Reynolds, 11 February 2010

The American historical novelist E.L. Doctorow has spoken of the adventure of his process of composition, of the excitement of not knowing where he is going to end up. For a reader, too, the feeling of being searchingly led forward is one of the pleasures offered by his fiction. But another impression it gives is that the environment being explored comes ready structured. In the work of Dos...

His and Hers: Robert Browning

Matthew Reynolds, 9 October 2008

Browning’s contemporaries agreed he was a genius, but they were not all sure he was a poet. Wilde’s quip – ‘Meredith is a prose Browning, and so is Browning’ – expresses a view shared by admirers such as George Eliot and Henry James, doubters like Carlyle and Hopkins, and a chorus of others. But the history of poetry is a history of revolutions in what...

Most Himself: Dryden

Matthew Reynolds, 19 July 2007

Of all the great English poets, Dryden must be the least enjoyed. Once honoured ‘rather in the stiffness than in the strength of his eminence’, he was soon ‘laid carefully away among the heroes’, according to Mark Van Doren, the critic who is still, nearly a century on, the most persuasive of his would-be resurrectors. The same melancholy afflicts his most authoritative modern biographer, James Anderson Winn: ‘Any candid teacher of English literature must admit that many students find little pleasure or stimulation in those few selections from Dryden we now ask them to read.’ The difficulty is not confined to students, or to recent times.

‘Dante in English’ is an anthology of English translations of passages from Dante (most of them from the Commedia); it also includes poetry in English by authors who have been...

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