Auden's dedication as a writer was matched only by his commitment to challenging the received view of political and personal life. The definitive biography goes beyond a study of the great poet to create a vibrant and masterful commentary on Auden's work, ideas and life within the context of the wars, ideologies, spiritual quests and sexual attitudes of this century.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
The problem with this book is that the man that is described does not fit with his oeuvre, or the sadness that was felt upon his passing. The author has, undoubtedly done his homework before putting pen to paper; the detail is meticulous but, the created figure does not breathe. Part of the problem is, I believe, that he is too much in admiration of his subject. When Auden joins the exodus of creative talent crossing the pond, in the period just before the start of the second World War, he tries to convince us that this is a mere co-incidence. It seems to stretch fate a little thin and, for me, it would have done Auden more of a favour to allow this to have been a factor. I have recently read a biography of Benjamin Britten, who did the same and, whilst it may not be his finest hour, one can appreciate the horrendous situation facing them and, with hand on heart, would not wish to say that, faced with the same circumstances, one would have acted more courageously. The Auden found between these covers is a vulgar, sad creature. His relations with other human beings inevitably turn out to be miserable failures: his love-life is a mess, going from affairs with boys from the street, with no intent other than "rough" sex, to an infatuation with Kallman, a man that Auden tries to stifle, who seems to stay within his orbit for purely financial gain. I know no better than to accept this but, in the last few pages, we are told that this cold fish could not live without Auden and died a year later of a broken heart. Having completely disparaged this opus, it does have some redeeming features; the explanations as to Auden's mindset and physical situation at the time of producing each of his major works does add to the poignancy of the poetry. Davenport-Hines introduces snippets of the poems and links them well to Auden's life. A useful, but not a particularly pleasant read.
Review: AudenUser Review - Goodreads
Civilized gossip, cursory literary analysis. To be fair, that is probably all that would fit into 350-ish pages. In order to satisfy me, an Auden biographer would have to embody the best qualities of Robert Caro and Helen Gardner.