September 1, 1939: A Biography of a Poem

by Ian Sansom

On Sale: 29/11/2019


About the Book

This is a book about a poet, about a poem, about a city, and about a world at a point of change. More than a work of literary criticism or literary biography, it is a record of why and how we create and respond to great poetry.

This is a book about a poet – W. H. Auden, a wunderkind, a victim-beneficiary of a literary cult of personality who became a scapegoat and a poet-expatriate largely excluded from British literary history because he left.

About a poem – ‘September 1, 1939', his most famous and celebrated, yet one which he tried to rewrite and disown and which has enjoyed – or been condemned – to a tragic and unexpected afterlife.

About a city – New York, an island, an emblem of the Future, magnificent, provisional, seamy, and in 1939 about to emerge as the defining twentieth-century cosmopolis, the capital of the world.

And about a world at a point of change – about 1939, and about our own Age of Anxiety, about the aftermath of September 11, when many American newspapers reprinted Auden's poem in its entirety on their editorial pages.

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780007557219
  • ISBN 10: 0007557213
  • Imprint: 4th Estate - GB
  • On Sale: 29/11/2019
  • Pages: 352
  • List Price: 39.99 AUD
  • BISAC1: Literature & literary studies / Poetry by individual poets


Ian Sansom is the author of Paper: An Elegy and the Mobile Library Mystery series of novels. He is also a frequent contributor to the Guardian and the London Review of Books, and a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. The Sussex Murders is the fifth in his County Guide series, following The Norfolk Mystery, Death in Devon, Westmorland Alone and Essex Poison.

More about the author

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