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World Within World: The Autobiography of Stephen Spender (Modern Library) Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 2, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After being out of print for 12 years, Spender's classic autobiography appears in the wake of the author's plagiarism lawsuit against novelist David Leavitt.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"This is a notable work on the meaning of a man's life and the varied aspects of the world in which he lives," said LJ's reviewer of Spender's autobiography (LJ 4/15/51) in which he serves up not only his own life in the arts but also offers portraits of Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Woolf, and other literary luminaries. The book was also the center of controversy when Spender's homosexual affair was fictionalized in a pornographic novel. Spender sued, and the novel was pulled. This edition contains a new introduction by the author.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (January 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679640452
  • ASIN: B005ZOMC8O
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,316,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on March 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I like Stephen Spender. That is, of course, I like his poetry that I've read as well as his introduction to my favorite novel:Malcolm Lowry's Under The Volcano. I like this book too. But, first of all, there's altogether too much name-dropping, which becomes rather tedious at times. Some of the anecdotes are quite rum, like the ones involving Lady Ottoline Morrel. But all this Bloomsbury-Virginia Woolf business gets on one's nerves (well, mine anyway) after a while. I don't think Spender's homosexual relationship is the most important thing in the book; though it was doubtless courageous of Spender to include it as well as indispensable to getting this book back in print! The most important thing in the book is the difference in the pre- versus post- Spanish Civil War mindset among sensitive, well-bred intelllectuals among whom Spender was a figure. Before the war, Spender says, it seemed that individuals (particularly idealists) could make a difference. After the war, all that had not been killed fighting Franco (and there were many) were disillusioned and glum, especially Spender. Finally, this book has a sad tone that runs from Spender's school days to his middle age. He was a cultured, gifted writer who had not, by his middle ages, produced a "great work." And, despite the Queen's Gold Medal and Knighthood in later years, his melancholy grew worse. He speaks of himself at the end of the book as "rotted by a modicum of success" and admits that "My mistake was to think that my own nature would make everything easy."-The strange thing is that he didn't shake this attitude off. He was only halfway through his life. I was going to make put forth some hypotheses as to why, but, really, it's anybody's guess. Isn't it?
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Format: Hardcover
Memoirs have become ubiquitous recently, a favored literary form. World Within World is one of the best. Stephen Spender, one of England's leading twentieth century poets and literary figures wrote this book less than half way into his long life, covering his youth and early middle age through World War Two. While this book became notorious a few years back as the source of a lawsuit for plagiarism brought by Spender against David Leavitt over his book While England Sleeps, the book has merit far beyond the controversy. The incident which forms the basis of the dispute, Spender's rescue efforts on behalf of a former lover during the Spanish Civil War, is merely one of the interesting and illuminating episodes and set pieces of this book. Spender, growing up in the wake of World War One, in a well-connected family, encountered some of the leading literary figures of the Twentieth Century. He was a contemporary and friend of W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and Cyril Connolly, whom he incisively sketches and analyzes, both in terms of personality and work. He was taken under the wings of such giants as Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot, who form the basis of two fascinating portraits. Most memorable perhaps is his description of a meeting with William Butler Yeats at Lady Ottoline Morrill's salon that started out quite disastrously but was rescued by Lady Ottoline's desperate telephone call to Woolf. Not only does he describe the literary scene in England, but also the atmosphere of Weimar Germany, Civil War Republican Spain and World War Two England. Indeed we get a glimpse of the Berlin boarding house immortalized by Isherwood and later in Cabaret. As memorable as he is in describing others, Spender is balanced, acute and unsparing in his self-analysis.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I do not think that memoirs get any more personal, or more beautifully expressive, than Spender's. It is prose penned by a poet...wonderfully descriptive, and (almost alarmingly) frank. Within the first few pages, I became utterly convinced that Spender would have been ill-suited for anything other than a life of poetry.

I originally acquired the book after reading an excerpt in an old 1940s issue of Partisan Review, and I was fairly seduced by Spender's vivid depictions of the hedonistic tendencies exhibited by young Germans he visited just prior to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic.

Spender's insights into human nature, however, all so poetically rendered, were what I most marvelled at. The book also is packed with historical, political, and social commentary regarding the period in which he lived: Spender was an intimate of Auden, he aided Republican Spain during the Civil War, he was a Communist and a bi-sexual, and he served in a fire brigade during the bombing of London. Despite my own personal stances against his early political and sexual proclivities (both of which he apparently renounced in later years), I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Aside from a few eccentricities regarding punctuation, I seriously doubt that autobiography has been written quite as well as this by anyone.
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