Wednesday, September 16, 2009

from Afterthought: Pieces about Writing (1962)

Elizabeth Bowen

Easy to be wise after the event. For the writer, writing is eventful: one might say it is in itself eventfulness. . . . One may not exactly know what one has (finally) written till one has finished it, and then only after a term of time. Then begins a view of the whole, a more perceptive or comprehensive vision; but too late. However, fortunately for authors they are seldom prey to regret. They seldom look back, for they are usually engaged upon something else.

from Elizabeth Bowen (1981)

Hermione Lee

Elizabeth Bowen is one of the greatest writers of fiction in this language and in this century. She wrote ten novels, at least five of which are masterpieces: strange, original, vivid, exciting and intelligent. She is a very fine short-story writer, a brilliant technician of the form, a dazzling evoker of mood and place, . . . beautifully controlled and intensely haunting.

from "Elizabeth Bowen: The House in Paris," in Passions of the Mind (1991)

A. S. Byatt

She writes, for all her elegance, with a harshness that is unusual and pleasing. There are moments of vision and metaphor, akin both to [Henry] James and Virginia Woolf. . . . As a child I thought I was learning sensibility and fine discrimination from this novel. Now, more important, I feel that Elizabeth Bowen's description of Ivy Compton-Burnett's quality applied also her own work. She wrote of her in 1941: "Elizabethan implacability, tonic plainness of speaking, are not so strange to us as they were. This is a time for hard writers--and here is one."

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