The Temple

Stephen Spender, Author Grove/Atlantic $15.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1057-2
Those who remember when modern poetry was entering its primethe era of Eliot, Auden, Spender and Day Lewiswill read this autobiographical novel, written when Spender was 19, and recently rediscovered and revised, with nostalgic interest. With portraits of Auden and Isherwood barely disguised by fictional names, it chronicles Spender's first visit to Hamburg in the summer of 1929 and his second, actually in the fall of the same year, now updated to 1932. Events are few: afternoons of swimming, drunken evenings at nightclubs, a week's hike along the Rhine, but Paul, the narrator, relates them with poetic sensibility that renders place and people snapshot-clear. Bantering reference is made to the partly Jewish background of Paul and most of his friends, but it is not until his second visit that the Nazi threat becomes tangible. By then, sexual preferences have been sorted outthere's a pungent interlude with the Isherwood character and the shifty-eyed German youth who became his long-term loveras well as political proclivities. Chilling anticipation of the harm that will be dealt by Nazi sympathizers to young businessmen and artists lurks in the breaking off of once-intimate friendships. Doom, nowhere articulated, is implied in the eagerness of Paul's friends to misinterpret the signs. Always gracefully, sometimes elegantly, written, this is a fine example of a young poet's first attempt at the novelist's trade. (August)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 978-0-06-097242-4
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8021-3524-7
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