Monday, December 6, 2010

On Gatrhorne-Hardy's Gerald Brenan

I have just finished a superb biography, Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy's Gerald Brenan: The Interior Castle (NY: WW Norton, 1992). I first became acquainted with Brenan by reading his Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1943, and still in press) while writing my doctoral dissertation in 1968. Now, some forty two years later, I've learned about Brenan's rich life (1894-1987) from this magnificent work. Gathorne-Hardy had at his disposal massive numbers of letters between Brenan and his friends -- many of them members of the Bloomsbury crowd -- Brenan's papers, those of his wife, Gamel, memoirs of those who knew him, plus the author's personal knowledge of Brenan, at least late in Brenan's life, that permitted him to write with great insight into his subject. Brenan had a knack for characterization. So too has his biographer, for Brenan is alive in these six hundred and four pages, and by alive I mean his inner life, his relations with others, his passions, his Spain. Made vivid too are his lovers, his wife, his friends, his era. When Brenan dies, the reader dies a little himself.

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