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This review is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

LOOKING FOR DIRECTION David Gascoyne, Journal 1936-1937 (Enitharmon Press) £6.75

Early in 1979, soon after the publication of David Gascoyne's Paris Journal 1937-9, word began to travel around that Enitharmon Press were bringing out an earlier, recently rediscovered, journal covering the years 1936-7. This seemed to promise some record of Gascoyne's adventures with the Surrealists in England during the heady days of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition and of his visit to Spain at the time of the Civil War. The Paris Journal gave a fine account of a remarkable quest for selfhood. Gascoyne's earlier journal is now seen to be essentially the report of an earlier stage of that same quest. Somewhat disappointing perhaps, in that it covers only a few months (from late September 1936 to early June 1937), nevertheless this is an interesting if fragmentary record of the inner conflicts and deep-centred fears of an English writer struggling to find artistic identity and spiritual direction during the darkest years of a convoluted late-adolescence in the convoluted 1930s. Although this book belongs with the later Paris Journal there are some telling differences between them in attitudes towards the outside world. For example, there are more details of actual events, including the final tetchy breakup of the Surrealist Group in England, the beginnings of Mass Observation, Gascoyne's involvement with the Communist Party and what it was like to take part in 1930s street demonstrations, and his visits to Paris and Spain. Gascoyne has supplemented his earlier sketchy memories of some of these events by adding recently-written 'Introductory Notes' ...


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