In a message dated Tue, 18 Sep 2001 12:52:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Rickard A Parker <[log in to unmask]> writes:
> Another E.O. Hoppe portrait (of Rebecca West) is at
> Where we have the following text:
> A Woman Without Compromise
> Rebecca West didn't care for T. S. Eliot, Communism or Chanel, and
> said so.
> By SARAH KERR
> Who was the most fearless writer, male or female, of the century we
> have just left behind? In any such contest, Dame Rebecca West would
> have to rank high on the short list. An uncompromising literary
> critic, she slammed Tolstoy and called T. S. Eliot a fake when the
> rest of the world was declaring him immortal.
> Rick Parker
I am not surprised that she didn't like Eliot. She couldn't stand Wagner, either. Not that the two are related much, but her credo appears to have been a preference for the "agreeable" over the "disagreeable", and for those who appear to "embrace life" over those who think life is a bad job, and seek (what she might view as) escapist justifications for keeping on. In different ways, both Eliot and Wagner run afoul of these preferences.
She also didn't like Goethe, whose body of work, she wrote, could be summarized by the phrase "ain't nature grand."
I recently (well, five years ago) "discovered" Ms. West when I wanted to read up on the Balkans and, inevitably, found the monolithic "Black Lamb, Grey Falcon", her travelogue-cum-history from trips there on the eve of WWII. To me, it was an extraordinary read. (Enjoyed at a languid pace over about two years.)
The last two or three hundred pages are a bit dated due to an obsessive anti-Germanism which, while more than understandable at the time, appears overbroad in historical context. (For example, she claims that the contribution of German culture to music is less than England's because, while England never produced a Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc, neither did it produce a Wagner: a dubious proposition, whatever one thinks of Wagner.) But what's couple of hundred pages in at 1200 page work?
I had wondered about her attitude toward Eliot while reading the book. I read a short bio of her as well, and found no indication either way. I'd be interested to know if anyone has access to specific statements concerning what she thought of Eliot.
She also was a prominent art critic, I understand. I wonder, Pat, if you have any opinion of her in that regard (or otherwise)?
Lastly (although there is much more one could say), she is one of the "old folks" who appear in the film "Reds". This, I understand, was based upon her significant socialist attachments in the 1920's. She married a banker, got more "respectable", and became known for her very outspoken anti-communism after WWII -- even offering to inform for Hoover and FBI.
I do not intend to impugn her motives by pointing out her change in course. One is entitled to change one's mind, and socialism in the 1920's was a very different thing from communism in the 1950's. She was consistent in being anti-totalitarian, but differed in how she perceived the totalitarianism of far left regimes.
All in all, a fascinating life, and one I'm glad I fortuitously came across: whatever she thinks of TSE.