Thursday, August 08, 2019

Tackling a masterpiece …

… Jay Parini - Battle Lines | Literary Review | Issue 478. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is nothing systematic about his book, which consists of bits and pieces, quotes from other authors, reflections on Sansom’s own life in relation to Auden’s, as well as fiercely intelligent readings of individual lines and stanzas. For me, the book’s best moments are when Sansom is most critical of Auden: ‘Auden had a tendency throughout his career to reflect upon and attempt to solve and explain problems using the simplifying logic of the child.’ That is bold but accurate, though it also points to a strength in Auden that has always struck me: his ability to speak in abstract terms in a way that seems memorable in part because it has a childlike simplicity, one that can seem naive but nevertheless strikes at truth, as in: ‘Hunger allows no choice/To the citizen or the police:/We must love one another or die.’

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