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This review is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

THE ENEMY'S TERRITORY Jeffrey Meyers, The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis (Routledge and Kegan Paul) £15.00

A new Zeitgeist became established in the 1930s, wrote Wyndham Lewis in 1937, slyly wondering if Auden was it, was "the new guy who's got into the landscape", and neatly answering No. Today, Lewis himself has become like that: is he the new guy among the "Men of 1914" - is it to be Lewis now, rather than Joyce, Pound or Eliot? The answer is not yet clear, and could be No as much as Yes. But Jeffrey Meyers's excellent biography pushes firmly in the affirmative direction, for it makes Lewis both accessible and unavoidable. Professor Meyers's impressive grasp of a great mass of varied and difficult material has created a new presence in literary and artistic modernism. Since Lewis does not suffer from secretive executors, this biography exposes all of him - we learn of his illnesses, his mistresses, the effects of venereal disease and the effects of poverty and blindness, as well as about the literary friendships and enmities. Meyers writes an efficient, driving prose, full of facts and without Michael Holroyd's insinuating persuasiveness; and Lewis is a major figure, unlike Augustus John (who taught him about sex) or Lytton Strachey (who said "Living in the company of such a person would certainly have a deleterious effect on one's moral being").

Meyers has successfully traced Lewis's mixed origins - his American adventurer father and his English mother - and his early years in England after the father departed. He was at Rugby School and then ...


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