Bernard O’Donoghue

A Life Backwards

Blood Kindred: W B Yeats – The Life, the Death, the Politics

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There have been many biographies of Yeats over the past fifteen years, culminating in Roy Foster’s magisterial two-volume ‘official’ work (completed in 2003), so you might wonder what the case is for another one. But W J McCormack’s vigorous new book is not a simple biography. His claim is that this is, at last, the book which refuses to gloss over the unacceptable features of the poet’s politics; it is ‘a specifically political Life of Yeats’. So, while acknowledging a debt to and admiration for predecessors (especially Foster), McCormack at the same time accuses those predecessors of a suppressio veri extending from wilful myopia to whitewashing.

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