Zenosbooks

0356031470Memoirs Of A Polyglot: The Autobiography of William Gerhardie by William Gerhardie. New York. 1973. St Martin's Press. hardcover. 408 pages. Preface by Michael Holroyd. 0356031470.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Written with a rare candour, this enchanting and entertaining book describes the early life of this ‘unique, isolated and important figure in English letters.’ William Gerhardie has been quoted as saying that his hopes lie in ‘ever being discovered astonishingly anew.’ He has revised and briefly expanded his autobiography (first written in 1931) for its inclusion in Macdonald’s new definitive editions of his works, all of which are introduced by Prefaces by Michael Holroyd. Mr Gerhardie writes about his grandparents and parents, and about his childhood in St Petersburg where his father, a Br1tish cotton manufacturer settled in the 1890s. He joined the Scots Greys in the First World War, was commissioned and posted to the British Embassy at Petrograd, where he saw the Russian Revolution in various stages. MEMOIRS OF A POLYGLOT is illustrated with photographs, many of them charming examples from family albums. At Oxford, he wrote FUTILITY, the first of his novels. MEMOIRS OF A POLYGLOT wonderfully illuminates the literary personality and the enduring works of this author, of whom C. P. Snow has said: ‘He is a comic writer of genus. but his art is profoundly serious. William Gerhardie was the friend some of the most interesting people of the 1920s and 1930s - from Beaverbrook to the Sitweils - and writes brilliantly, and amusingly about the literary and political scene. ‘The narrative,’ Michael Holroyd says in his Preface, ‘which contains so many percipient little pen portraits, stops for no man, but merely seems to pick them up in its stride.’ As Michael Ivens has commented, William Gerhardie’s life has been full of ‘odd and incredible events’ and these - including many travels - are described in MEMOIRS OF A POLYGLOT with zest, humour and remarkable insight. 

 

 

 

Gerhardi William William Alexander Gerhardie (1895-1977) was a British (Anglo-Russian) novelist and playwright. Gerhardie (or Gerhardi: he added the ‘e’ in later years as an affectation) was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s (Evelyn Waugh told him ‘I have talent, but you have genius’). H.G Wells was a ferocious champion of his work. His first novel Futility, was written while he was at Cambridge and drew on his experiences in Russia fighting (or attempting to fight) the Bolsheviks, along with his childhood experiences visiting pre-revolutionary Russia. Some say that it was the first work in English to fully explore the theme of ‘waiting’ later made famous by Samuel Beckett in WAITING FOR GODOT, but it is probably more apt to recognize a common comic nihilism between those two figures. His next novel, THE POLYGLOTS is probably his masterpiece (although some argue for DOOM). Again it deals with Russia (Gerhardie was strongly influenced by the tragi-comic style of Russian writers such as Chekhov who he wrote a study of while in College). He collaborated with Hugh Kingsmill on the biography ‘The Casanova Fable’, his friendship with Hugh being both a source of conflict over women and a great intellectual stimulus. After World War II Gerhardie’s star waned, and he became unfashionable, and although he continued to write, he had nothing published after 1939. After a period of poverty-stricken oblivion, he lived to see two ‘definitive collected works’ published by Macdonald (in 1947-49 and then revised again in 1970-74). More recently, both Prion and New Directions Press have been reissuing his works. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest ‘Pronounced jer (as Ger in Gerald) hardy, with the accent on the a: jer-har’dy. This is the way I and my relatives pronounce it, tho I am told it is incorrect. Philologists are of the opinion that it should be pronounced with the g as in Gertrude. I believe they are right. I, however, cling to the family habit of mispronouncing it. But I do so without obstinacy. If the world made it worth my while I would side with the multitude.’ (Charles Earle Funk, What’s the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936).


Search

Zeno's Picks

Neglectedbooks.com

The Neglected Books Page

25 June 2019

www.NeglectedBooks.com: Where forgotten books are remembered
  • The Fire Escape, by Susan Kale (1960)

    The paperback editions of The Fire Escape trumpet its message: “The tragic, unvarnished story of a prostitute.” Which is a bit like plastering the banner line, “The Story of a Cockroach” across the cover of The Metamorphosis: yes, well, I guess you could say it is, but that’s actually missing the point in a pretty... Read more

    The post ...

  • Blitz Writing: Night Shift and It Was Different at the Time, by Inez Holden (2019)

    As a rule, I don’t cover in print books on this site: the fact that a book is in print is proof that it may be underappreciated, but it’s certainly not forgotten. However, I have to make an exception in the case of the Handheld Press’s recent release of two of Inez Holden’s three books... Read more

    The

    ...
  • Journey Through a Lighted Room, by Margaret Parton (1973)

    I knew I was going to like Margaret Parton’s memoir, Journey Through a Lighted Room, on page two, when she writes of reflecting upon a Quaker meeting while “wandering aimlessly about the garden with a vodka and tonic in hand.” This is the story of a woman who wasn’t ashamed by the fact that she... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Mere Living, by B. Bergson Spiro (Betty Miller) (1933)

    Had The Mere Living not been largely forgotten by now, it would undoubtedly be saddled with an shakeable and unfavorable comparison to Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. For both are circadian novels (taking place within the space of a single day) set in London and both really heavily on the use of a stream of consciousness... Read more

    The post ...

  • My Heart for Hostage, by Robert Hillyer (1942)

    I feel a little trepidation in writing about My Heart for Hostage. It may be the closest thing to a perfect book that I’ve come across in nearly 13 years of working on this site. It’s so good that early in reading it, I felt a frisson of fear that Robert Hillyer would not be... Read more

    The post ...

  • Linked in the Lutheran Underworld, from Direction North, by John Sykes (1967)

    It is not that I am a particularly avid drinker, but one partial to a glass of beer or a glass or two of wine with a meal, and then a lift at the start of the evening—apart from specific drinking occasions; but since I came to Finland I have been goaded almost to a... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Rabbit’s Umbrella, by George Plimpton (1955)

    The rabbit with the umbrella in George Plimpton’s children’s book, The Rabbit’s Umbrella, is every bit as real as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny: that he might exist matters more than that he actually does. In this case, the rabbit, plus three robbers, shouting parrots, and a giant dog named Lump serve as bait... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Bloater, by Rosemary Tonks (1968)

    The bloater of Rosemary Tonks’ title is an opera singer, and The Bloater itself is a bit like Così fan tutte updated for the Swinging Sixties. Min, married to George, who seems to have a bird on the side, is being pursued by the Bloater (he never gets a real name), while she contemplates if... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Autobiography of Ethel Firebrace, by Gay Taylor and Malachi Whitaker (1937)

    In The Autobiography of Ethel Firebrace, Malachi Whitaker and Gay Taylor offered the world a feminine match for H. H. Bashford’s really good man, Augustus Carp, Esq. Lost now to literary history, Ethel Firebrace was prolific novelist of the early 20th century, churning out dozens and dozens of works such as Clothed in White Samite,... ...

  • The Well-Meaning Young Man, by Luise and Magdalen King-Hall (1930)

    I decided to read The Well Meaning Young Man after stumbling across this passage: Horatio Swann, the famous portrait painter, was at his wit’s end. Harry Ames, the well-known scene designer, was at his wit’s end. The Russian chauffeur, Boris, was lying upstairs under a neat check bedspread, in a bedroom of the inn, suffering... Read more

    The

    ...
Copyright © 2019 Zenosbooks. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.