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Showing posts from January, 2019

Christ in high culture and in the vegetable patch.

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Richard Harries' 'Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith'  is a series of explorative essays on how, in a growingly secular age, key poets and novelists have responded to Christian faith. Such an exploration requires choices to be made most especially of who to focus on, who to exclude. Harries includes twenty key figures, broadly explored chronologically, from Dostoyevsky to Marilynne Robinson and, with only two exceptions, Dostoyevsky and Shushaku Endo, from the Anglo-American world, fifteen men and five women.

This spectrum encompasses primarily people who have converted to the faith (or re-entered after adolescent disillusionment), have found it deeply nourishing yet remain conflicted; and, four authors - Samuel Beckett, Edward Thomas, William Golding, and Philip Pullman - who have remained (in different ways) outside and, in the last case, are passionately critical whilst adhering to the notion of an ordering imagination in the universe that is …

Poets go to war

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It was not a universal view that the First World War came as a strange relief but it was a widespread one. A relief partly because it seemed increasingly inevitable (even though its actual breakout can be read as a casual sequence of blunderings) and partly because the world seemed stalled, stifled in its 'Victorian' mores, trapped by its complacent empires, bursting with nationalities denied a home of their own; and, gripped in a struggle between capital and labor.

The war came and the poets mostly exalted - even measured, non-martial ones like Rilke seemed to lose their heads in the gathered enthusiasm of a war that would be a cleansing fire and usher in a new age, a reconfigured politics, new countries and interconnections between countries and gleaming with the technology and speed in which the Futurists positively exalted.
After, however, the terrible love of war crashed against the numbing reality of conflict matters changed generating complex responses. Some remained r…

Three visions of living in freedom.

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Rowena Farre (in fact Daphne Lois Macready) is an enigma. The author of three highly accomplished books that whilst purporting to be autobiography contain a certain level of fictionalization! Everything has the resonance of truth, well-told yet putting the three books and what little is known of her life together establishes a pattern of inconsistencies that set up a now probably irresolvable puzzle!

Her first book, 'Seal Morning', is an account of her childhood, growing up in Sutherland, Scotland, on a remote croft. A croft acquired by an aunt on retiring from school teaching and shared with a menagerie of animals including a common seal (Lora), a rat (Rodney), two otters (Hansel and Gretel) and a dog (Ben) amongst other animals.

It is wholly and pervasively charming - and pure escapism as its initial reviewers noted. Not escapism that overly sentimentalized the life but offered a refreshing counterpoint of resilience, connectedness, and freedom that any urban dweller might …