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  1. Robert Graves
  2. Goodbye to Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That » Novel Readings - Notes on Literature and Criticism
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Part of the immense output of an exceptionally prolific career Graves published 55 collections of poems, 43 works of non-fiction, ten translations, fifteen novels and one play , his only major work of autobiography was perceived as an admirable contribution to a majestic career. It was an impressionistic and candid document of record about a war that Graves was not alone in believing should never have happened.

Nevertheless, the sense conveyed by obituary writers at the time of its author''s death was not - as may be argued today - that Goodbye to All That had been his most significant prose achievement.

Back in July , the month of his 21st birthday, The Times had published - no obituary was required for a young man whose mildly mischievous poems had been published only in school magazines - a brief announcement of the death of Robert Graves. Graves''s narrow escape from a premature demise at Bois de Fourneaux or High Wood where some 8, men lost their lives stands at the heart of Goodbye To All That, the eloquent, angry book which the thirty-three year old poet wrote - merely to raise funds, so he said at the time - on the verge of leaving England for a new life in Europe.


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Attracting a high degree both of censure and praise at the time of its first publication by Cape in , Goodbye was republished by Cassell in While demurely explaining that poets, as private persons, possess no need of public honours, Graves remained savvy enough to preserve from deletion his book''s apparently superfluous record of a visit to Egypt. Graves, accompanied both by Laura Riding and his wife, Nancy Nicholson, had spent five months teaching English Literature in Cairo in In , a year after the Crisis, Suez was still a hot topic.

Robert Graves

A marketing opportunity was not to be resisted. Today, Goodbye has become a classic, a wartime memoir that is studied in schools, taught in colleges and read - as it has always been - for the sheer pleasure of hearing Graves''s voice. Graves, who later told a young writer to employ a tape recorder because ''The vox humana is a great help,'' had himself dictated much of Goodbye to Jane Lye, a London neighbour whose husband designed the book''s first wrapper. In the troubled and unpredictable world of the 21st century, Graves''s autobiography feels more relevant either than the mythic questings of The White Goddess or the admirable but slightly dated Roman novels, best known now through the halting, meticulously created performance of Derek Jacobi as the Emperor Claudius and that of Sian Phillips as Livia, his shimmeringly unpleasant mother.

Mothers seldom emerge with credit in Graves''s work. Sassoon was furious about Goodbye''s tactless presentation of his own grief-stricken mamma as a seance-holding obsessive; Amy Graves''s response to the monstrous presence who presides over The White Goddess remains unguessable. Graves published Goodbye to All That at a time when several traumatised writers were feeling that the moment had come to take stock of the recent past. Ford Madox Ford had already published his great but flawed wartime tetralogy, Parade''s End Sherriff''s play Journey''s End continued to shock audiences around the world it was translated into seventeen languages in Like Graves himself, Ford, Remarque and Sherriff, all of whom had served at the front, viewed war as an essentially futile venture, in which exceptional acts of loyalty and courage became the norm.

Goodbye to Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That » Novel Readings - Notes on Literature and Criticism

Among all the works that emerged from a decade''s musing upon a war that its most clear-sighted recorders believed to have been catastrophically conceived, managed and concluded, Goodbye survives as the most approachable, the most powerful and - reading it with all the bitter hindsights of a century of shabby acts and betrayals - the most applicable to our own times. On the verge of Britain''s momentous break with Europe, we are uniquely placed to read a book replete with folly, written in a spirit of fierce regret.

Although undeniably autobiographical, Goodbye to All That was written with an agenda and with more concern for effect than precise detail. Almost as if staging a school play, the author wanted light to fall most brightly wherever he chose to shine his torch. It troubled Graves far more in than it had in that England had taken up arms against a country to which he felt a powerful bond.

Describing his early years in the opening chapters of Goodbye the Graves family occupied homes in Wimbledon and in Wales, where his mother bought land and built a house near Harlech , Graves took care that his book should emphasise his personal connection to England''s wartime enemy. Linked to the illustrious von Ranke family both through the German marriage of a paternal great-aunt, Clarissa Graves, back in , and through his widowed father''s second marriage to the independently wealthy Amalia, or Amy von Ranke, Graves had paid five visits to Germany before he turned twelve.

His summers at Laufzorn, a Bavarian country estate owned by his German grandfather, were so he asserted in both editions of Goodbye ''easily the best things of my childhood. It was against this bliss-filled idyll of reminiscence that he placed the deaths of his kindly, playful Uncle Siegfried von Aufsess, owner of an Alpine castle, killed while serving on the Imperial German Staff, and of his German cousin, Wilhelm, ''later shot down in the air by a schoolfriend of mine''.

About Good-Bye to All That In this autobiography, first published in , poet Robert Graves traces the monumental and universal loss of innocence that occurred as a result of the First World War. Also in Vintage International. Also by Robert Graves. About Robert Graves Robert Graves — was a poet, novelist, and critic. Product Details.

Good-Bye to All That

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