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This review is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

APOSTLE OF AN ANCIENT PEACE Wyndham Lewis, Collected Poems and Plays, edited by Alan Munton (Carcanet) £6.95

This book brings back from long oblivion some of Wyndham Lewis's most striking works, ably edited by Alan Munton and sedately urged upon a new generation by C. H. Sisson, whose introduction should be read in concert with his section on Lewis in English Poetry: 1900-1950. The poems and plays amply illustrate Lewis's legendary versatility, a quality he shared with his Continental peers-the painter-novelist-playwright Kokoschka, for instance, and other Expressionist practitioners of 'Total Art'. To the more convention-bound English, accustomed to associating particular artists with particular media, Lewis was and remains an alien phenomenon. Not only does he blithely switch from one medium to another, he also tends to violate all the rules of Fair Play by ignoring the niceties of the traditional forms through which he chooses to release his rush of ideas. So, having become a dramatist for Enemy of the Stars (as a painter he was always stage-struck), he gives us a work that is not really a play but more, at one point, a pioneer cinematic scenario, at others a prose poem for voice performance.

Early though it was, Enemy of the Stars represents the whole gamut of Lewis, anticipating such books of his maturity as The Lion and the Fox (1927), with its theory of tragedy, and that stark embodiment of the tragic art, the novel Self Condemned (1954). It looks forward as well to the succession of pictures on the theme of combat that preoccupied Lewis all his life. This new ...


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