September 1, 1939

September 1, 1939

Ian Sansom

This a book about a poet – W. H. Auden, a wunderkind, a victim-beneficiary of a literary cult of personality who became a scapegoat and a poet-expatriate largely excluded from British literary history because he left.

About a poem – ‘September 1, 1939’, his most famous and celebrated, yet one which he tried to rewrite and disown and which has enjoyed – or been condemned – to a tragic and unexpected afterlife.

About a city – New York, an island, an emblem of the Future, magnificent, provisional, seamy, and in 1939 about to emerge as the defining twentieth-century cosmopolis, the capital of the world.

And about a world at a point of change – about 1939, and about our own Age of Anxiety, about the aftermath of September 11, when many American newspapers reprinted Auden’s poem in its entirety on their editorial pages.

Reviews of September 1, 1939

  • Praise for ‘Paper’:

    ‘Engaging and dynamic’ Andrew Martin, Financial Times

    ‘Wonderfully diverting…Splendidly dense with fact and thought’ Steven Poole, Times Literary Supplement

    ‘Sansom’s scholarship is prodigious; his enthusiasm inexhaustible…He can make one laugh out loud by his placing of a single word’ Daily Telegraph

    ‘A collection of ever so erudite, witty, chucklesome essays, rich with digressions and asides, on paper, in many of its guises, that seeks to refute – and does refute – the idea that we are moving towards a paperless world’ Bookmunch