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Dream on

C.K. Stead, 3 December 1992

A World of My Own: A Dream Diary 
by Graham Greene.
Reinhardt, 116 pp., £12.99, October 1992, 1 871061 36 9
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... Shaw was ‘a sewing-machine that clicked and smiled’. Greene sticks a kitchen knife into W.H. Auden and this makes no impression at all, so they settle down to chat. Auden says he holds a position on the science faculty of a university, and Greene tells him: ‘It would be fun if you could discover one small scientific ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett, 23 May 1985

Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... On a bitter cold morning in January 1939 Auden and Isherwood sailed into New York harbour on board the SS Champlain. After coming through a blizzard off Newfoundland the ship looked like a wedding cake and the mood of our two heroes was correspondingly festive and expectant. On their first visit to New York the previous year Auden had sometimes been in tears, telling Isherwood no one would ever love him and that he would never have any sexual success ...

Turning down O’Hanlon

Mark Ford, 7 December 1989

In Trouble Again: A Journey between the Orinoco and the Amazon 
by Redmond O’Hanlon.
Penguin, 368 pp., £3.99, October 1989, 0 14 011900 0
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Our Grandmothers’ Drums: A Portrait of Rural African Life and Culture 
by Mark Hudson.
Secker, 356 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 436 20959 4
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Borderlines: A Journey in Thailand and Burma 
by Charles Nicholl.
Secker, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 436 30980 7
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... In The Orators W.H. Auden classified bird buffs as ‘excessive lovers of self’: they illustrate the psychological type who is ‘unable to taste pleasure unless through the rare coincidence of naturally diverse events, or the performance of a long and intricate ritual’. Redmond O’Hanlon sees his own career as a bird-watcher originating along similar lines to this but rather more romantically ...

Where their real face was known

John Lloyd, 6 December 1990

The KGB: The Inside Story of the Foreign Operations 
by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky.
Hodder, 704 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 340 48561 2
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Inside the KGB: Myth and Reality 
by Vladimir Kuzichkin.
Deutsch, 406 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 233 98616 2
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... dragged by the scruff of its neck towards an always glorious, but always receding climax. As W.H. Auden remarked in another context, those leaders who believe in the possibility of utopia would be shirking their civic duty if they did not terrorise their citizens into acceptance. Stalin did not shrink from his civic duty, any more than Lenin did. He knew how ...

Broken Knowledge

Frank Kermode, 4 August 1983

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 383 pp., £9.50, March 1983, 0 19 214111 2
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The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation: Who said what about where? 
edited by Peter Yapp.
Routledge, 1022 pp., £24.95, April 1983, 0 7100 0992 5
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... or cannot build castles. The natural rival of this Oxford Book is the Faber Book, compiled by W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger and first published in 1962. Auden was himself an aphorist (he is represented in Gross’s collection), and Kronenberger was a connoisseur of the form, so their book, which will take a bit of ...

What Kind of Guy?

Michael Wood: W.H. Auden, 10 June 1999

Later Auden 
by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 570 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 571 19784 1
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... That is the way things happen,’ Auden writes in ‘Memorial for the City’, a poem Edward Mendelson dates from June 1949,                            for ever and ever Plum-blossom falls on the dead, the roar of the waterfall covers The cries of the whipped and the sighs of the lovers And the hard bright light composes A meaningless moment into an eternal fact Which a whistling messenger disappears with into a defile: One enjoys glory, one endures shame; He may, she must ...

Auden Askew

Barbara Everett, 19 November 1981

W.H. AudenA Biography 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen and Unwin, 495 pp., £12.50, June 1981, 0 04 928044 9
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Early Auden 
by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 407 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 571 11193 9
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... difficult to define what is, or is not, a ‘fact’ of his ‘life’. If both Eliot and Auden, to name only two, showed a strong disinclination to have their lives written, the reason may not have been that they had secrets to hide, or disliked public discussion of their work, so much as that they recognised that the biographer is, like the ...

Dog Days

Stan Smith, 11 January 1990

Plays and Other Dramatic Writings by W.H. Auden, 1928-1938 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 680 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 571 15115 9
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... the approval of their audience. The first play, Sherlock Holmes chez Duhamel, was written by Mr Auden for performance by Form V. It was a representation of a visit of Sherlock Holmes to France, and showed the attitude of the French towards his methods of deduction.’ The report passes over the play in silence, preferring the scenes from The Wind in the ...

Half-Way up the Hill

Frank Kermode, 7 July 1988

Young Betjeman 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 457 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 7195 4531 5
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... Powell, Peter Quennell, Tom Driberg, Harold Acton, Christopher Sykes, Randolph Churchill, W.H. Auden, and lots of others, including Gaitskell once more (‘Hugh, may I stroke your bottom?’ ‘Oh, I suppose so, if you must’). With Auden he went to bed; also, according to Hillier (citing Peter Quennell), he ...

Goethe In Britain

Rosemary Ashton, 19 March 1981

Goethe’s Plays 
translated by Charles Passage.
Benn, 626 pp., £12.95, July 1980, 0 510 00087 8
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The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar 1775-1832 
by T.J. Reed.
Croom Helm, 271 pp., £14.95, November 1979, 0 85664 356 4
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Goethe on Art 
translated by John Gage.
Scolar, 251 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 85967 494 0
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The Younger Goethe and the Visual Arts 
by W.D. Robson-Scott.
Cambridge, 175 pp., £19.50, February 1981, 0 521 23321 6
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... German Literature’. In the introduction to their translation of the Italian Journey (1962), W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer sought to explain and excuse British ignorance of, and indifference to, Goethe by drawing attention to the undeniable fact that his work is particularly resistant to translation into English. This is to be expected in the case of ...

Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman, 16 April 1981

Cities of the Red Night 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... in this book), but anyway looks uncertain of its status, like a joke title thought up by W.H. Auden for a poem. The parodies provide a respite from this nightmare. Even incidentally, there’s a broad, unlikely set of references to literature – to Saki and John Fowles and Gatsby’s ‘old sport’. In more detail, a character called Clem Snide does a ...

Contra Galton

Michael Neve, 5 March 1987

In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity 
by Daniel Kevles.
Penguin, 426 pp., £4.95, August 1986, 0 14 022698 2
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... the National Health Service. The world of Stanley Baldwin contained more reasons for admiring W.H. Auden than this book understands. The sense of having read a genuinely responsible work of history of science remains. To take only the most obvious examples from Kevles’s last chapters: his useful warnings against expecting too much from pre-natal medical ...

To Kill All Day

Frank Kermode: Amis’s Terrible News, 17 October 2002

Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 306 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 224 06303 0
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... streets. Loving him went with being crushed by him, even posthumously. On his visit to China W.H. Auden took along Motley’s The Rise of the Dutch Republic, in which, as John Fuller informs us in his Commentary (1998), he was depressed to read the catalogue of tortures and massacres attributed to William the Silent. The official report of William’s death ...

Maximum Assistance from Good Cooking, Good Clothes, Good Drink

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Shakespeare, 22 February 2001

Lectures on Shakespeare 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Arthur Kirsch.
Faber, 398 pp., £30, February 2001, 9780571207121
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... the editor has to turn to the much less reliable Howard Griffin (who also, in his turn, became Auden’s secretary) and to two other volunteers, women who had preserved their notes from the spring term. The result reads like a remarkably full account of what the poet said about Shakespeare but also about many other matters. At the time of the lectures he ...

Grendel gongan

Richard North, 10 October 1991

The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature 
by Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £30, June 1991, 0 521 37438 3
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... get no further than the preface to the Companion, they will see what another Oxford wit, W.H. Auden, said of the same material: ‘I was spellbound. This poetry, I learned knew, was going to be my dish... I learned enough to read it, and Anglo-Saxon and Middle English poetry have been one of my strongest, most lasting influences.’ Readers might wonder ...

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