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The Savage God: A Study of Suicide [Hardcover]

A. Alvarez
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1972
"Suicide, " writes the noted English poet and critic A. Alvarez, "has permeated Western culture like a dye that cannot be washed out." Although the aims of this compelling, compassionate book are broadly cultural and literary, the narrative is rooted in personal experience: it begins with a long memoir of Sylvia Plath, and ends with an account of the author's own sucide attempt. Within this dramatic framework, Alvarez launched his enquiry into the final taboo of human behavior, a traces changing attitues towards suicide from the perspective of literature. He follows the black thread leading from Dante through Donne and the romantic agony, to the Savage God at the heart of modern literature.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House Inc (T); Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (April 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394474511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394474519
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 530,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The Savage God" is the first study to attemp the historical, literary, philosophical dimensions of the mystery of suicide. . . . It is brilliant, touching, and oddly passionate. . . . An ambitious, exhaustive exploration into the nature of the self-destructive element in man. " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Al Alvarez, poet, critic, novelist, sportsman, poker player, has for seventy years been hard to categorize. Author of over twenty books including POKER and THE BIGGEST GAME IN TOWN he is one of the great writers of the 20th Century. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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As I remember it, I met Sylvia and her husband in London in the spring of 1960. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting 19 Aug 2003
There are a lot of expectations going in to reading this book. You might expect a self-conscious act of catharsis, with Alvarex trying to exorcise the facts of his own failed suicide attempt. Fortunately, it is a literary quest through the attitudes, myths and mystiques that have been built around this intensely personal act from the time of the Greeks to the sixties 'extremist' poets, as he calls them; Plath, Hughes, Lowell.
The points of interest are mainly in the historical information he produces; before this I was unaware of the frequency of artistic suicides. Moving from period to period, this book is invaluable as an overview of changes in the English Literary tradition, all the time tied to the act of suicide.
So we are treated to chapters on Donne, Chatterton, The Romantics, and most interestingly for me, the Dadaists. The only low point comes in the very last chapter, when the writer becomes all 'confessional' regarding his own suicide, and seems to neglect some of the points he has made in treating other peoples attempts. Still though, a surprisingly relevant and informative book, of interest for anyone who has read the poetry of the last 400 years.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well rescearched 26 Mar 2003
An author who knows his subject from the inside is either a blessing or a curse. In the curst of The Savage God, it brings A. Alvarez closer to the subject and gives him insights into it that would never occur to normal people. His close relationship with Sylvia Plath, mentioned in detail during the opening "chapter" is also fascinating.
Begining each section with a quote from a notable source ("Dying is an art/Like everything else/ I do it exceptionally well/ I do it so it feels like hell/ I do it so it feels real/ I guess you could say I've a call") sets the mood rathar than acts as eye-candy or space filling.
As someone who hasnt read widely around the subject of suicide, it seems that Alvarez has presented the views of many many people in this book. Obviously he cannot mention all the views of eveyone but most groups, religious and historical seem to be at least nodded to. most are examined in some depth. Conclusions on the subject of suicide are frequent. Unfortunately, it is up to the individual reader how convinced they are. To someone who has read alot of essays on suicide, it may seem a little basic, perhaps, but to the rest of us, it is easy to read whilst maintaining a pleasing technical vocablury which allows us to acces the subject in question easilly. The Savage God is an introduction to suicide that allows people to understand the motivation behind it. If that is what you want... buy It. Simple.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 10 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Interesting book that I have read before & bought as an, unusual, present for a friend.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I came to it, in my almost obsessive study of the lives of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Three women left their lives (two lovers and a mother) because of his all-encompassing desire to create great poetry and , while his mother didn't commit suicide, it seems that she no longer wanted to live for the shame that two other women had.
Al Alvarez was one of those "onlookers" who saw some of the "game," and had also had his demons to deal with.
Well worth reading, and thinking about... very deeply.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice book 10 Dec 2011
By Demi
Perfect communication,good product quality. The theme of the book is really interesting and well written. Rodriguez sets the subject of suicide from multiples angles.
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