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This article is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

David Gascoyne's Paris Journal Alan Young

ON 7 September 1939, four days after England and France declared war on Nazi Germany, Lawrence Durrell's short poem dedicated to David Gascoyne was published in The New English Weekly. This poem is reprinted appropriately as a sort of Afterword to Durrell's Preface to Gascoyne's Paris Journal 1937-1939. * Its final stanza captures with sympathetic insight the convoluted intellectual, spiritual, and artistic anguish which is the keynote of Gascoyne's extraordinary journal:


And to-day, Sunday. The pit.
The axe and the knot. Cannot write.
The monster in its booth.
At a quarter to one the mask repeating:
"Truth is what is.
Truth is what is Truth?"
("Journal")


A month after this poem appeared, Gascoyne recorded in his journal that it was his 23rd birthday, and


In spite of the War (probably in fact, because of it), I have truly emerged at last from the dark, constricting chrysalis of the last few years of my life and now I am. Everything-inner and outer, and the whole relationship between them-is now clear. I haye accepted the great fundamental contradiction, and have died of it; and am risen again; and now the old contradiction is no more. It now remains to me to write down my total vision...


The Paris journal ends therefore with a triumphant proclamation of a Vita Nuova, of artistic selfhood painfully won. Gascoyne knew that this "victory" ...


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