The poet David Gascoyne (1916-2001) led a life as surreal as his early poems. At eighteen he drafted the manifesto of the English Surrealist Group and at nineteen he published what remains an authoritative account of the international movement. He translated for Salvador Dali and crossed swords with Andre Breton; the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London was largely his brainchild. During the war he toured as an actor, embraced religious existentialism and became, in the words of John Lehmann, 'the most important philosophic poet of our time'. After the war he wrote for radio, painted, cooked, and went mad. The journals he kept during his periods of mental instability are masterpieces of the bizarre. Gascoyne found unexpected happiness in late middle age, emerging as an elder statesman of British poetry. Robert Fraser contends that, through all the twists and turns of his variegated existence, Gascoyne strove for candour and truth of self-expression. With equivalent candour this pioneering biography describes his creative work and multifarious translations, his inconvenient addictions, his tormented private life, and his many friendships in England and in France.
Robert Fraser is the author of books on Marcel Proust and Sir James Frazer, and of a widely reviewed biography of the poet George Barker. He has also written plays on the lives of Dr Johnson, Lord Byron, Carlo Gesualdo, Katherine Mansfield and D. H. Lawrence. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has lectured in the universities of Leeds and London, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Currently Professor of English in the Open University, he is a co-author of the forthcoming History of the Oxford University Press.
TWILIGHT: TWO DEATHS; NIGHT ONE: 1916-1939; NIGHT TWO: 1939-1964; NIGHT THREE: 1964-2001