Those Barren Leaves by Aldous Huxley (1925)

‘I don’t see that it would be possible to live in a more exciting age,’ said Calamy. ‘The sense that everything’s perfectly provisional and temporary – everything, from social institutions to what we’ve hitherto regarded as the most sacred scientific truths – the feeling that nothing, from the Treaty of Versailles to the rationally explicable […]

Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley (1923)

And how did she spend her time?… Well, she read a lot of books; but most of the novels she got from Boots’ seemed to her rather silly. ‘Too much about the same thing. Always love.’ (chapter 12) ‘You bore me,’ said Mrs. Viveash. ‘Must I talk of love, then?’ asked Gumbril. ‘It looks like […]

Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley (1921)

He was overcome by the beauty of those deeply embayed combes, scooped in the flanks of the ridge beneath him. Curves, curves: he repeated the word slowly, trying as he did so to find some term in which to give expression to his appreciation. Curves – no, that was inadequate. He made a gesture with […]

Industry and Empire: From 1750 to the Present Day by Eric Hobsbawm (1968)

Eric Hobsbawm (1917 to 2012) was one of Britain’s leading Marxist historians. Of Jewish parentage he spent his boyhood in Vienna and Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. With Hitler’s accession to power in 1933, the family moved to Britain in 1933, although his Wikipedia page is at pains to point out that, because […]

The Unbearable Bassington by Saki (1912)

The spirit of mirthfulness…certainly ran riot in the boy, but it was a twisted wayward sort of mirth ‘Comus,’ she said quietly and wearily, ‘you are an exact reversal of the legend of Pandora’s Box. You have all the charm and advantages that a boy could want to help him on in the world, and […]

Damned to Fame by James Knowlson (1996) part 2

…his view that suffering is the norm of human life, that will represents an unwelcome intrusion, and that real consciousness lies beyond human understanding (Knowlson summarising how Beckett found his deepest beliefs reinforced by the philosopher Schopenhauer, page 268) This is a truly excellent literary biography. Knowlson documents Beckett’s life with immense thoroughness but shows […]

Letters from Iceland by W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice (1936)

A golden age of travel writing We’ve spoken about the 1930s as the Age of Auden, dominated by the left-wing politics of most of the young writers and poets, who were responding to the Great Depression (1929-33) and then stricken by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). But it was also a golden […]

The Aerodrome by Rex Warner (1941)

What a record of confusion, deception, rankling hatred, low aims, indecision! (The Air Vice-Marshall nicely summing up this absurd novel, page 200) There’s a genre of books about English village life, set in the 1920s and 30s, which are so normal, so provincial, so banal, and yet so utterly removed from the world we live […]

The Anarchist by Hermann Broch (1931)

Introduction to Hermann Broch Here’s a brief biographical sketch from a New York Times review of the paperback reprint of The Sleepwalkers Born in 1886, Broch was a product of that fin-de-siecle Vienna that he analysed devastatingly in his brilliant study Hugo von Hofmannsthal and His Time‘ (recently available in English). The dutiful son of […]

The Romantic by Hermann Broch (1931)

It was only fragments of the past that fleetingly emerged, and important and trivial things flowed chaotically through one another… (The Romantic, page 11) Hermann Broch (1886 – 1951) is considered one of the major European Modernist authors. He was born in Vienna to a prosperous Jewish family and worked for some time in his […]