Setting the World on Fire by Angus Wilson - review by Julian Rathbone

Julian Rathbone

Playing the Giddy Ox

Setting the World on Fire


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I suppose Literary World has always been a shade uncomfortable about the two or three writers of genius who exist at any given time. I do not mean that it ignores them – that happens rarely and I think usually for political reasons rather than literary ones – but it does tend not quite to give them their full due: it grudges a place on Parnassus above the lower slopes its chiefest luminaries themselves aspire to. It never really took to Shakespeare until he was dead and even then discovered ways of belittling him ('There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned'), and has run true to this form just about ever since. Too silly to anatomise why this should be so – a hundred reasons each as valid as the next spring to mind – but it does make it doubly necessary, when the opportunity arises, to insist as firmly and as unequivocally as one can on the greatness of the great.

Angus Wilson should be honoured as we honour Hardy, Lawrence and Forster – that is he should be fully recognised as someone who is way above the class of ... well, whatshername and youknowwhomimean; Setting the World on Fire convinces one all the more certainly than ever that this is

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