GERALD BRENAN by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy

GERALD BRENAN

The Interior Castle
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In his 92 years, Brenan (1894-1987), an English writer who lived mostly Spain, produced poetry, novels, essays, reviews, histories of Spain and its literature, memoirs, and myriad letters revealing how famous he was in Spain and among his friends. These latter included Gathorne-Hardy (The Old School Tie, 1978, etc.), who now offers a monumental biography about trivial events in the life of, when all's said and done, a marginal writer. Gathorne-Hardy seems obsessed with two major themes here-- money and sex--although there appears to have been little of either in Brenan's life. Claiming poverty, Brenan lived the carefree existence of an expatriate writer; sexually, he was inclined toward voyeurism. His passion for Dora Carrington, which tangentially connected him to the Bloomsbury group, was inhibited by her marriage to Ralph Partridge. Brenan married his wife, Gamel, after she extricated herself from a mÇnage Ö trois and adopted the writer's daughter by a 15-year-old Spanish peasant. Brenan spent his later years with Lynda Nicholson (50 years his junior) and, eventually, with her Swedish lover. With all this romantically oriented detail, Gathorne-Hardy seems more intent on setting the sexual record straight than on explaining why Brenan or the women in his life matter to anyone except the Spanish, who--in a ludicrous misunderstanding that had them believing that the writer, then 91, was the prisoner of Andalusian kidnappers--rescued him from an English nursing home and honored him with a pension, shelter, and care in Spain until his death. Gathorne-Hardy compares Brenan to Toqueville, Byron, Coleridge, even Boswell. But while Brenan seems a decent enough man, with a literary aura (he met Bertrand Russell, the Woolfs, the Powyses, the Pritchetts, even Hemingway), he was no Byron--and, in any case, he explained what needs knowing about his life in his own memoirs, pointedly titled A Life of One's Own (1962). (Photographs)

Pub Date: April 26th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03464-X
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993