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Walter Kendrick

Walter Kendrick, who teaches at Fordham University, New York City, is the author of a book on Trollope and co-editor of The Treasury of English Poetry. Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Collected Stories have recently been brought out by Penguin.

Two Sad Russians

Walter Kendrick, 5 September 1985

On 1 June 1948, Edmund Wilson sent to Vladimir Nabokov a copy of Volume VI of Havelock Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex, French edition. What had caught Wilson’s attention – and would surely beguile his friend – was the ‘Confession Sexuelle d’un Russe du Sud’, a pseudonymous hundred-page memoir that for more than two decades had lurked unnoticed among the appendices to Ellis’s forgotten book. Nabokov’s response was enthusiastic. ‘I enjoyed the Russian’s love-life hugely,’ he wrote on 10 June. ‘It is wonderfully funny. As a boy, he seems to have been quite extraordinarily lucky in coming across girls with unusually rapid and rich reactions. The end is rather bathetic.’

Taking what you get

Walter Kendrick, 6 December 1984

The longevity of artists creates special difficulties for their critics. Ideally, from a critical point of view, artists ought to follow Keats’s example and die young, leaving behind a tidy oeuvre about which coherent generalisations can be made. Too often, however, artists survive to an unreasonable age, passing through phase after phase, advancing and regressing with no steady rhythm, every year or so tossing a new stumbling-block into the path of those who would like to understand them. Thomas Hardy was England’s worst offender in this regard: but Graham Greene, now 80, bids fair to give Hardy a run for his money.

Gehenna

Walter Kendrick, 2 August 1984

When Isaac Bashevis Singer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, not everyone was gratified. Clive Sinclair begins The Brothers Singer with a quotation from a BBC radio interview broadcast minutes after the award had been announced: the ‘astounded’ interviewer suspected that ‘some kind of American Mafia’ was at work in the Nobel Committee, while the ‘serious’ Professor Bradbury, discounting this theory, ascribed Singer’s triumph to ‘the domination of American writing in the world today’. Neither seemed to feel that Singer’s work, in its own right, deserved such an honour: both, in fact, appeared rather vague as to what sort of work the new laureate had done.

Shall we tell the children?

Paul Seabright, 3 July 1986

When Alix Strachey, translator of Freud, went to Berlin in 1924 to seek psychoanalysis with Freud’s colleague, Karl Abraham, her most momentous acquisition, in an accumulation consisting...

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