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The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus [Hardcover]

Cyril Connolly
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 21.33 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

27 July 2005
Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) was one of the most influential book reviewers and critics in England, contributing regularly to The New Statesmen, The Observer, and The Sunday Times. His essays have been collected in book form and published to wide acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Considered by many to be his most enduring work, The Unquiet Grave is a highly personal journal, written during the devastation of the Second World war and filled with reflections on aging, the break-up of his marriage, and the horrors of the war around him. It is also a wonderfully varied intellectual feast: a collection of aphorisms, epigrams, and quotations from such masters of European literature as Horace, Baudelaire, Sainte-Beuve, Flaubert, and Goethe. Dazzlingly original in both form and content, The Unquiet Grave has continued to influence generations of writers and readers.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Persea Books (27 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089255410X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892554102
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,168,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books 19 July 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave might have been well-known in British literary life twenty-five years ago, but no one under the age of 32 seems to have heard of it. The accusation most often levelled at it is that it is a work of pure egoism - an accusation that fails to distinguish between talking a lot about yourself (which can be very entertaining), and being self-centred (which never is). Connolly did a lot of the former, but was not the latter. The book is a seductive mixture of diary, common-place book, essay, travelogue and memoir - arranged in loose paragraphs, in which Connolly gives us his views women, religion, death, seduction, infatuation and literature. The thoughts are wise, dark, and beautifully modelled, with the balance of the best French aphorisms. For example: "There is no fury like an ex-wife searching for a new lover," "No one over thirty-five is worth meeting who has not something to teach us - something more than we could learn from ourselves, from a book." The charm of the book lies in the narrator's mischievous, melancholy tone as he shifts between the sublime and the banal: "To sit late in a restaurant (especially when one has to pay the bill) is particularly conducive to angst, which does not affect us after snacks taken in an armchair with a book. Angst is an awareness of the waste of our time and ability, such as may be witnessed among people kept waiting by a hairdresser." It's a book one can fall in love with...
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one book everyone should read 15 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
Reading the Unquiet Grave for the first time is like tasting a few dishes of the most enticing hors d'oevre of one's life. It is not a coherent thesis or novel, but a collection of thoughts by one of the most able minds of his generation.The first paragraph states that the true function of a writer is to create a masterpiece and that no other task is of any consequence. From then on the book travels through several courses at the highest intellectual level down to the most basic: It ranges over several civilisations in both space and time, noting their distilled wisdom - not without humour- and reflecting on art, sexuality, drug addiction, religion and, by the way, the nature of his pet Lemurs. I confess it took me twenty one years to fully understand it, and this understanding reflected my own slow maturing.
What is most surprising about this book is its origin. It was written by the editor Cyril Connolly in a year of depression following the breakdown of a relationship. He was editor of an avante garde magazine in London during WWII. And yet this book is purely classical in its views, and it is perhaps for that reason that it is entirely relevant today, based in the practical accomodation of human nature that gave rise to our greatest civilisations and yet very aware of the high ideals and aspirations that drove them.
His observations on human relationships are accurate; his insights into the causes of the breakdown of marriage seem simple but inescapable because of that, and in my job as a general practitioner doctor, I always find that couples in the middle of a breakdown in their relationship are able to draw some comfort or insight from this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, a Guide to Life 5 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
THE UNQUIET GRAVE is an incredible book. Every page has condensed bits of wisdom and wit. Truly one of the best books ever. Unfortunately, it is out of print and, alas, that is too bad; I confess that I had to procure a copy of it by nefarious means. If a book was meant to be sought out by any means possible, this is the book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Just about everything worth thinking about is addressed in The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connelly. A supreme piece of work.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few books I would insist any wisdom seeker reads. 6 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The writer Cyril Connolly states in this book that if an author wishes to write a book that lasts a thousand years, then they must learn to use invisible ink. In the first paragraph he also comments that the only objective of a writer is to produce a masterpiece, and no other task is of any consequence. In this book he achieved both. His exquisite prose is an embarrasing reminder of how the quality of English as a written language has deteriorated since this book was published in 1944. He achieves a unique insight into human nature as perceived from his high ground as a scholar of the classical school: His most famous quote from this book "Inside every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out" is trite compared to his other observations on human relationships, the nature of civilisation and the creative process. In one extraordinary, incisive paragraph he explains why so many couples break up despite the fact that they still love each other, and his summation of the three requisites for the creation of a work of art (Validity of the myth, the vigour of belief and the intensity of creation) goes some considerable way to explain the incompatibility of modern and classic art. Every individual to whom I lend a copy ends up copying out vast tracts of the text, or buying a copy outright. As a busy General Medical Practitioner, I would argue that there could be no greater nor more condensed wisdom so beautifully described in one short book. I am concerned that this book is once again out of print - will anyone out there publish it again?
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unwittingly, a masterpiece 19 Mar 2006
By Sirin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Cyril Connolly was a prolifically talented schoolboy. Tipped by many for great literary achievement, he wore the burden of this promise like a ball and chain for the rest of his life, anxiously ruminating on greatness.

He was one of the best read men of his generation, and felt that the virgin snow where Shakespeare and Montaigne cut their initial, deep furrows had since become flattened by innumerable tracks so it was no longer able to receive an impression.

Connolly was a great epicurian intellectual, a man whose mind watches itself in Camus' definition. He brooded obsessively on the human condition, admiring those writers who spat in the eye of the ephemeral fame and glory of their own era to follow the solitary and near impossible road to producing a great masterpiece.

A multitude of journalism, a small novel was written, but the masterpiece Connolly was tipped for never came.

But wait. In the course of a lifetime anxiously pondering, well, life itself, Connolly accumulated a hoard of aphorisms that relate to the human being as he or she passes through the stages of life, some of them from the great writers he admired, some of them his own. Here are some choice cuts:

(From Eliot): ''Someone said: 'The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.' Precisely, and they are that which we know.'

'The civilized are those who get more out of life than the uncivilized, and for this we are not likely to be forgiven.'

'Everything is a dangerous drug to me except reality, which is unendurable.'

'I am now forced to admit that anxiety is my true condition, occasionally intruded on by work, pleasure, melancholy or despair.'

The quote from Hemingway on the cover of my paperback edition holds true: 'A book which, no matter how many readers it will ever have, will never have enough.'

A masterpiece arrived at through the back door.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible print quality 8 Mar 2013
By Practical Shopper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book thirty years ago and I think it still has some value for me, though not as much as when I was a post-adolescent. I wanted to re-read it.

Don't buy this version; get one of the used copies that cost almost the same and have much better print quality. This was duplicated from a poor-quality scan and it will make for a negative reading experience.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It makes you think 15 Dec 1999
By Peter Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Unquiet Grave smells of the mannered ways of the English Middle Class before WW2. It has a certain pretentiousness which will repel some but open doors for others. It consists of paragraphs each of which contain a thought culled mostly from the wisdom literature of the last 3 millennia. Not all these thoughts are attributed, so some are presumably those of the author. They do, however, hang together well and may spark a high rate of response in their reader. Connolly does seem to reflect the anxious yearning for direction and certainty which infects many. Those people who current wisdom says should be secure in our modern world but who feel anything but secure will find the book reflecting their uncertainties. It will strike more chords in California than Bosnia, and some of the chords will be life enhancing.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A voyage towards a masterpiece? 2 April 2006
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This work was written according to the author's introduction to the revised version between 1942 and 1943 in the midst of the great war. It was written when the former capitol of the world, according to him, London was filled with gloom. It is a reflection on literature and life, and many believe it is the masterpiece that Cyril Connally all his life strove to create.

In it he reflects on greatness in literature and on the meaning of the true masterpiece. He says,when including works by Horace, Virgil, Villon, Montaigne, La Fontaine, La Rouchefoucaud, La Bruyere, Baudelaire, Pope, Leopardi, Rimbaud, Byron in his list, that what is common to them is"Love of life and nature: lack of belief in the iea of progress: interest in , mingled with contempt for humanity. .. In feeling, these works of art contain the maximum of emotion compatible with a classical sense of form."

'Palinurus' is clearly a Francophile who in the midst of the war feels deeply the separation from the Continent, from France especially.

He writes what he calls ' the doubts and reflections of a year' in 'three or four rhythms: art, love, nature and religion.an experiment in self- dismantling , a search for the obstruction which is blocking the flow from the well and whereby the name of Palinurus is becoming an archetype of frustration."

The great critic Walter Benjamin thought to construct according to Hannah Arendt , a masterpiece made out of the quotations of other writers. Connally here devotes a good share of the text to the wisest wisdom he according to his lights could find in others. He also offers his own ruminations in part as a way of consoling himself for the personal loss which in some way sets the grieving tone of the work.

Does it amount to a masterpiece? I would almost want to answer ' for those who feel it so'.

Palinurus himself says of Palinurus in the concluding page of the volume, "Palinurus, in fact, though he despises the emptiness of achievement , the applause of the multitude and the rewards of fame, comes in his long exile to hate himself for this contempt and so jumps childishly at the chance to be perpetuated as an obscure cape."

It appears that if Cyril Connally is perpetuated in Literature it will be through this particular voyage in the heart of life and literature.
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