Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Fitbit
Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful memoir, 14 Feb. 2009
This review is from: An Autobiography (Canongate Classics) (Paperback)
Edwin Muir was one of the great Scottish poets of the C20th, and this is his account of his life, split into two broad periods. The first is from his birth to around the age of 30, accounting for his time growing up in Orkney before moving to industrial Glasgow in his teenage years, before finally leaving for London and then Europe sometime into the 1920's. The second half picks up from around WW2 and into the years afterwards.

They are quite remarkably different accounts, different both in style and focus. The first is more concerned with the sharp contrast between his rural upbringing in the epic landscapes of Orkney and the harsh realities of the unhealthy, impersonal, industrial Glasgow. His account of growing up in Orkney is magical and other-worldly, aided considerably by his poet's economy of prose and eye for telling detail and imagery. When he moves to Glasgow this economy stays with him, though it is less magical and mythical things he sees now (arguably though as we are a post industrialist society, is this world any more alien to us than of the agrarian Orkney he describes?).

It is an intensely personal and introspective memoir, to the point where he lives and works as a clerk in various Glasgow offices during the period of WW1, with barely a mention to it. However, such is the ability of Muir's writing to drag you in his account of how he and his family struggled to survive in Glasgow that you barely notice it. Most of his family died within a few years of moving to Glasgow. He was ill for many years himself, cured only by a slum doctor who spent much time with him. The mental scars he bore after his claustrophobic proximity to this tragedy were considerable and lasted for many years after. It is only years later in London when an analyst starts to work with him as a patient for no fee does he realise how ill he was; at one point he was capable of having waking dreams that he could control.

The second part of the book is in sharp contrast to the first, This concerns the period of WW2 and after when he is working as a writer both in Britain (during the war) and in Europe after. You can tell immediately from his prose that this is a much more wordly man concerned with what is happening around him. Most striking is his account as a visiting teacher with the British Council to Prague after WW2. The initial period of optimism amongst the Czechs is then quickly extinguished by a Communist coup. The new regime rolls out the Orwellian nightmare those of us who read the history of the period have come to accept and expect; how dispiriting to have seen it by yourself without the benefit of hindsight we enjoy.

I'm rarely a reader of biographies but this book has been quite dear to my heart since I finished it. It is a good story told with such beautiful prose that I wish it had been twice as long; it could have been about the life of a binman who never left the town he was born in and Edwin Muir would still make it a wonderful read. I'm going to go away and read the rest of his books now.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Location: Manchester, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 837,035