Friday 1 April 2011

Four Quartets

T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets has been, for a long time, one of my favourite modern poems. I used to know most of it by heart, and I even translated a few dozen lines into Italian when I was a student.

Now, after a few years, I have read it again, and I am shocked to find that the work is suddenly mute to me. It's lost its fascination – what was original is now contrived, what was deep is now affected. There are still some great lines, but its style and structure don't resonate with me any more. It is unbelievable how taste changes over time.

And the same applies to popular and critical taste: what is acclaimed by one age or one individual is despised by another.

I'm more and more convinced that he's a fool who writes to obtain literary fame.


  1. Agreed. And "Literary fame" is as dangerous and likely fleeting a beast as any other sort of fame these days. We live in a strange and peculiar age, an age where we laugh at the talentless strugglers who'll never make it and deride the ones that have as populist panderers or tedious bores who happened to have the right surnames or made the right contacts at school. Everything that sells in the hundreds of thousands is dreck, drivel, trash, and anything literary is overlong, dull, self-indulgent, and humourless.

    So as a writer stuck in the security/ netherworld of obscurity you are left with but one option: write only from a place of passion and satisfy yourself first. If they like you they like you. If not? Demons exorcised, and onto the next set.

  2. Hi, I commend your honesty in re-appraising your feelings for Four Quartets. Must have been difficult. Luckily I got it right first time - I said then that the work was contrived and pretentious. Though I admitted to its lyricism. Our English Lit professor was a complete, paid-up member of the Prufrock Club. My challenge (line by line by line by line by line) - in open class - was interpreted by our esteemed professor as an attack, not only on Eliot, but on him personally. Strange - and strained -times. And, your writing of your altered response to Eliot's words reminded me of that and I wanted to share. Regards


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