Category Archives: West, Rebecca

“Writing At This Level”: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon III

I started reading Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon four years ago. I’m still reading it – or, more accurately, I am reading it again. I didn’t stop reading it then because it was no good or I wasn’t interested. On the contrary, I was fascinated and endlessly impressed. But the very thing that so […]

“The sword in the hand of humanity”: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-1917

“Boldness is Rebecca West’s strength,” Jane Marcus says in  her edited collection The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-1917; “She polished the weapons of invective and denunciation into the tools of a fine art.” That combination of boldness and artfulness makes West irresistibly quotable: people who hang out with me on Twitter may have noticed […]

“That promise will not be kept”: Rebecca West, This Real Night

Every time we left our pianos the age gave us such assurances that there was to be a new and final establishment of pleasure upon earth. True that when we were at our pianos we knew that this was not true. There is something in the great music that we played which told us that […]

“In the courts of heaven”: Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows

Pejorative generalizations about the ‘traditional novel,’ like debates over the ‘death of the novel,’ often seem to me unduly preoccupied with form, as if broadening the range of human possibilities expressed through fiction isn’t also a literary innovation or revision. The Fountain Overflows is a good reminder that  just because a novel is linear, has characters, and […]

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon II: Easter in Zagreb

Over the long weekend I made a little more progress on Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. I’m going to keep at it in deliberately small increments so that I can stop and stare at the sentences. As it happens, one of the chapters I was just reading describes a visit to the Cathedral in Zagreb […]

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon I: Sentences

One reason it is going to take me a long time to read Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is that so many of its individual sentences stop me in my tracks. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about them that is so startling (in a good way).  Here are some examples of sentences […]

Black Moods and Grey Memories: My Own Balkan Journeys

There are lots of impersonal reasons that I’m interested in Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Most obviously, it is a widely celebrated literary and intellectual achievement. Here’s what Steve Donoghue says in his write-up on it for his list of 20th-Century Non-Fiction Greats: All the dark heartaches of the newborn century are shaped […]

Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier

This strange, beautiful, overwrought little novel surprised and disturbed me. Its story is  simple: a soldier, Chris Baldry, returns from the front a victim of shell-shock that has cost him fifteen years worth of memory. The news is broken to his wife, Kitty, and his cousin, Jenny, by Margaret Grey, who as Margaret Allington was […]

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