Magazine
Latest Issue

Review: What WH Auden Can Do For You

Alexander McCall Smith on the profound ways Auden has influenced his life

By Elaine Showalter   November 2013

What WH Auden Can Do For You By Alexander McCall Smith (Princeton, £13.95)

Wystan Hugh Auden was a meticulous poet but a very messy man. Alexander McCall Smith recalls the only time he saw Auden reading at the University of Edinburgh. There was the great man, reciting his luminous lines from memory; and there was the “sartorial disaster, wearing a stained and ash-spattered suit and battered carpet slippers,” his fly-buttons conspicuously undone, shambolic but approachable and endearing.

For McCall Smith, writing about “the greatest literary discovery” of his life is a messy task too, involving not just commentary on his…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect