Steve Dewey's Reviews > The Thirties: A Dream Revolved

The Thirties by Julian Symons
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bookshelves: non-fiction, history, literature-studies, cultural-studies, politics

Julian Symons is perhaps best known as a crime writer. He also wrote poetry, social and military history, biography, literary criticism ... He was a prolific, as a glance at his Wikipedia page will testify.

This book looks at the role of the arts - particularly literature, and particularly Auden, in the decade of the 1930s. Symons also discusses political movements - particularly of the left - and their connections to those artistic currents.

My knowledge of Thirties literature - particularly poetry - and the politics of the intelligentsia is limited. This book was, therefore, an interesting introduction to the period. Because my knowledge is limited, however, I cannot tell if the the book was tendentious. Symons, to his credit, sometimes mocks his younger self, sometimes is appalled by him. The feeling I took from the book was that Symons was sympathetic to left-wing views, but was not a prosletyser, nor a zealot. Indeed, as he admits - and here is one of those moments he was appalled with himself - he sometimes took on the persona of a more right-wing individual in reaction against the zealous left-ism of the intelligentsia in which he found himself.

The book is short and easy to read - useful if all of this is new to you - and the chapters snappy and concise (each chapter tends to introduce a topic and then spin and divagate around it - Auden, poetry, politics, theatre, the New Left Review, Gollancz, and so on were all introduced in chapters of little more than five or ten pages. The subjects of these chapters would then reappear, weaving their way through the Thirties until Spain and Munich.

The book is then a concise look at a particular period in British political and intellectual history, and will be of interest to those, like me, who had little knowledge of the that period and that milieu. The book also (re)introduced me to some poets I had heard of but knew little of, such as Stephen Spender and Gavin Ewart - and the few line lines and stanzas Symons provides from these poets to colour his themes has spurred my interest in reading more of them.
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Reading Progress

November 15, 2017 – Started Reading
November 20, 2017 – Shelved
November 23, 2017 – Finished Reading
November 24, 2017 –
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November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: non-fiction
November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: history
November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: literature-studies
November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: cultural-studies
November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: politics

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