Tuesday, July 10, 2012
HOPE MIRRLEES - THE ANGEL OF DUSK
Hope Mirrlees (1887-1978) is mostly remembered for her fantasy novel, Lud-in-the-Mist (1926), which was reprinted in the Pan Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and gained a new readership in the Nineteen Seventies and after. But she also wrote two other novels, both unusual: Madeleine (1919), and The Counterplot (1924), and historical studies and essays. And she was a poet, her work now gathered in a fine volume, Collected Poems, from the Fyfield Books imprint of the Carcanet Press, edited and with an introduction by Sandeep Parmar. This includes her long modernist poem Paris (1920), full of the restless, vivid and bohemian spirit of the city in the years between the wars, a work too long overlooked, mingling mythic creatures and eternal symbols with the advertising slogans, public captions and overheard sayings of the fervid capital. The poems of her twilight years, also gathered here, are usually less formally adventurous but infused with her original and exotic intelligence, as she invokes the days of the Angel of Dusk. This edition also offers six essays, including a valuable one on A.M. Remizov, the Russian poet and teller of fairy-tales, in exile in Paris (his room was a museum of figurines and strange contraptions). The Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees is a keynote work for our appreciation of this elusive but brilliant figure, and well-served by a fascinating introduction about her life and books.