FROM THE LAND OF SHADOWS book cover   From the Land of Shadows
Clive James

Cover design by Hollyhead

"These literary-critical essays are compact with wit and penetration but also have a kind of freshness about them, as if the author has never got over his first rapture of enjoyment at the sheer thisness of poetry and prose. James is in the tradition of Hazlitt, Bagehot, and Desmond MacCarthy, with a gusto worthy to succeed theirs and a philosophy well set out in his own introduction. "Literature" he writes, "says most things itself, when it is allowed to." Criticism like this expands that allowance and adds to its pleasure" - John Bayley, The Observer
"His outstanding talent is a cicerone, guiding the ignorant traveller with patience, knowledge and wit round some favourite literary edifice and communicating his own admission of it to the goggling and fascinated visitor...the lasting impression is of our critic's truly amazing breadth of reference" - Times Literary Supplement
"Delightful writing. One of the liveliest writers on the scene" - Bernard Crick, New Statesman
"Mr James is hungry for - and not unworthy of - engagement with important issues. A collection of dignity and coherence...tellingly timely" - The Sunday Times



Part One: In a Free Society
Misia and All Paris - "Misia" by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale
Bernard Levin: Book Two - "Taking Sides" by Bernard Levin
Doubting Castle - "God's Apology: A Chronicle of Three Friends" by Richard Ingrams
Only Human - "Reaching Judgement at Nuremberg" by Bradley F. Smith
From Log Cabin to Log Cabin - "The Memoirs of Richard Nixon"
Little Malcolm and His Struggle against the Masses - "Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life" by Ian Hunter

Part Two: Fact Meets Fiction
Hard-core Gore - "Matters of Fact and of Fiction: Essays 1973-1976" by Gore Vidal
Go Back to the Cold! - "The Honourable Schoolboy" by John le Carré
In Our Graham Greenery - "The Human Factor" by Graham Greene
Pensée Persons - "Kalki" by Gore Vidal
Look Forward in Mild Irritation - "1985" by Anthony Burgess
A Blizzard of Tiny Kisses - "Princess Daisy' by Judith Krantz
Waugh's Last Stand - "The Letters of Evelyn Waugh" edited by Mark Amory
Fannikins' Cunnikin - "Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones" by Erica Jong
In Their Flying Machines - "Fighter" by Len Deighton and "The Last Chance" by Johannes Steinhoff

Part Three: Poetry, Criticism and Aesthetics
The Examined Life of Kinglsey Amis - "Collected Poem 1944-79" by Kingsley Amis
On Larkin's Wit - "Larkin at Sixty" edited by Anthony Thwaite
Catacomb Graffiti - "Poems and Journeys" by Charles Johnston and "Eugene Onegin" by Alexander Pushkin
Grigson's Satirical Tradition - "The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse" chosen by Geoffrey Grigson
All the Facts - "W.H. Auden: The life of a Poet" by Charles Osborne and "C. Day-Lewis: An English Literary Life" by Sean Day-Lewis
Flights of Angels - "The Drawings by Sandro Botticelli for Dante's Divine Comedy" with an introduction by Kenneth Clark
As a Matter of Tact- "Responses: Prose Pieces 1953-1976" by Richard Wilbur
These Staggering Questions - "Critical Understanding: The Powers and Limits of Pluralism" by Wayne Booth

Part Four: The Giant in the East
Nabokov's Grand Folly - "Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse" by Aleksandr Pushkin, translated by Vladimir Nabokov and "Nabokov Translated: A Comparison of Nabokov's Russian and English Prose" by Jane Grayson
Pushkin is the Sea - "Pushkin: The Complete Prose Tales" translated by Gillon R. Aitken and "Pushkin's fairy tales" translated by Janet Dalley
Voznesensky's Case - "Nostalgia for the Present" by Andrei Voznesensky and "The Making and Unmaking of a Soviet Writer" by Anatoly Gladilin, translated by David Lapeza
Transparent Petropolis - "Osip Mandelstam", poems chosen and translated by James Greene and "Osip Mandelstam: 50 Poems" translated by Bernard Meares
Voices from the Pit - "To Build a Castle - My Life as a Dissenter" by Vladimir Bukovsky, translated by Michael Scammell and "Alarm and Hope" by Andrei D. Sakharov
The Road to Berlin - "Prussian Nights: A Narrative Poem" by Alexander Solhenitsyn, translated by Robert Conquest
Big Book from Screwsville - "The Yawning Heights" by Alexander Zinoviev
A State of Boredom - "Brezhnev: A Short Biography" by The Institute of Marxism-Leninism
Awkward Laughter - "The Radiant Future" by Alexander Zinoviev and "Sans Illusions" by Alexander Zinoviev

First Paragraph from the Introduction

The land of shadows is where we should be proud to live. In August 1946 Zhdanov launched an official attack on certain reactionary tendencies in the arts, with particular attention to the poetry of Anna Akhmatova. Called The Report of Comrade Zhdanov on the Journals 'Zvezda' and 'Leningrad', his main speech on the subject is one of the dirtiest pieces of writing I have ever read. Long before finishing it you would be ready to sluice yourself down with used washing-up water just to get relatively clean. Pornography might felel dirty but most of it washes off the mind fairly easily. Political murder in a written form has a dirtiness that you can't free yourself from merely by taking thought. From Zhdanov's smutty invective you get a feeling directly connected with what he would have liked to do to his victims once he got them alone. He was instinctively and rightly certain that th emost degrading way to torment the poets was to bring them down to his level. Reading his smug prose is like being vouchsafed a glimpse into the mind of an obscene phone-caller, except that the range of ambition encompasses not merely the disturbance of your domestic innocence but includes starvation, torture, bitter cold and a broken back.

From the Picador paperback edition, 1983.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2000-02 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: January 2, 2002.