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This is a study of a literary generation writing in a period of expanding fears and ever more urgent political and social crises. The pace of the time itself, the sense of time passing and an end approaching gave a special quality to the Thirties. The public world pressed insistently on the private world. For those who came of literary age - Auden, Day Lewis, MacNeice, Spender, Graham Greene, Isherwood and Orwell among them - writing became a form of action. In the process a generation discovered itself and found its own expression.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712652506
ISBN-10: 0712652507
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 153mm x 29mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 12-Mar-1992
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » "How do you write an elegy for a political movement? How do you grieve for strangers?" Those are the sort of questions that Samuel Hynes asks in this unusually empathetic yet irretrievably academic study of the writers who matured in England in the selfish Twenties - when heroism was dead - and entered the Thirties with newly discovered, political heroes and with the notion that poetry could save the world. Hynes' format - cloddish at first glance but ultimately powerful - is utterly chronological and comprehensive; year by year, almost month by month, he analyzes all of the generation's published poems, fiction, plays, belles lettres, and criticism of importance. With minimal biography, a strong sense of historical happenings, and vast chunks of quoted texts, he demonstrates how public life invaded the "private" lives of Auden, Spender, Isherwood, Day Lewis, Orwell, John Lehmann, Louis MacNeice, and others; how the Communist Party attracted and finally disenchanted; how the war in Spain became the event to write about and dive into; how the activist-artist of struggle became, by decade's end, the lost-cause artist resigned to suffering, aware that the artist's function is not to change the world, but also aware that "if art survives, man survives too." Auden dominates, of course, with his carving out of a deep valley between "Escape-art" and the more urgently needed "Parable-art," but Hynes devotes equal energy to the alternative approaches - reportage, documentary films, outright propaganda - and to the individual dilemmas and fine distinctions of "left" faced by writers who were forced to reorder priorities of message and medium. If Hynes can be seen straining to fit surrealists or Graham Greene into his overview, that's a smaller problem than his consistent de-emphasis of personal motivations. Especially since Isherwood's recent Christopher and His Kind, the Auden-Isherwood quest for the heroism of the "Truly Strong Man," requires more examination of homosexual undercurrents, and Hynes' use of "Isherwood had gone to Berlin" as an unqualified example of expanding writer interest in foreign affairs simply cannot stand. Such tunnel-vision keeps Hynes off-limits for the general reader, but it does nothing to diminish the vigor of his textual illuminations, the elegance of his prose, or the warmth with which he shares the paradox of these writers. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Samuel Hynes

Samuel Hynes was born in Chicago in 1924 and was educated at the University of Minnesota and Columbia University. He has taught at Swarthmore College, Northwestern University. From 1943 to 1946, and again in 1952-3, he served as a pilot in the United States Marine Corps. His books include The Pattern of Hardy's Poetry, Edwardian Occasions and Flights of Passage: Reflections of a World War II Aviator. The Auden Generation is the second volume of Samuel Hynes's trilogy of cultural histories covering the relationship between literature, theatre and public events during the first four decades of the twentieth century. The others - The Edwardian Turn of Mind and A War Imagined - are also published by Pimlico.

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