Surreysmum's Reviews > Auden in Love

Auden in Love by Dorothy J. Farnan
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Sep 11, 09

bookshelves: biography, 1989, writers
Read in January, 1989

This is a double biography - of Auden, and of Chester Kallman, the man with whom he was in love from the time they met in 1939 until Auden's death in 1973. Dorothy J. Farnan, a contemporary of Kallman's, later became his stepmother, and she does not try to hide the fact that her knowledge of him is greater than what she can offer on the subject of Auden (whom she also knew reasonably well for the same length of time). A high school teacher of some seniority, Farnan is refreshingly aware of scholarly method, and her book, although a memoir, is also drawn from a variety of sources and properly documented. The tale she tells is not perhaps so very strange - a long-term relationship which survives despite the early snapping of sexual ties. Although she carefully avoids pejorative adjectives, Kallman appears to have been a rather unpleasasnt youth, and not to have improved with age - his arrogance, his promiscuity, and his financial dependence on Auden seem, to outside eyes, to make him an undesirable lifelong companion. But Kallman appears, too, to have been gifted with intelligence and vivacity. The book makes a fairly credible stab at explaining the nature of the relationship between the two - too complex to be summed up here. Farnan apparently does not feel herself competent to comment on the effect of the relationship upon Auden's poetry, for she attmepts very little in this vein. This is in no way a literary study, although the aptness of the occasional quotation shows that Farnan is certainly well-acquainted with Auden's poetry. [These notes were made in 1989:].
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