Spartacus Review

Volume 57: 26th February, 2012


Title: Thomas Hardy: Behind the Mask

Author: Andrew Norman

Publisher: History Press

Price: £18.99

Bookshop: Amazon

Spartacus Website: Thomas Hardy

Category: British Literature

Thomas Hardy was shy to a fault. He surrounded his house, Max Gate, with a dense curtain of trees, shunned publicity and investigative reporters, and when visitors arrived unexpectedly he slipped quietly out of the back door in order to avoid them. Furthermore, following the death of his first wife Emma, he burnt, page by page, a book-length manuscript of hers entitled "What I think of my husband", together with letters, notebooks, and diaries - both his and hers. This behaviour of Hardy's therefore begs the question: did he have something to hide, and if so, did this 'something' relate to his relationship with Emma? "Thomas Hardy: Behind the Mask" pierces the veil of secrecy which Hardy deliberately drew over his life, to find out why his life was so filled with anguish, and to discover how this led to the creation of some of the finest novels and poems in the English language.

In the 1930s, writers associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain set out to transform English culture. Creating a substantial body of Marxist literary criticism, and drawing on ideas from their own cultural traditions and from the Soviet Union, critics such as Christopher Caudwell, Alick West and Ralph Fox showed how Marxism could play a major role in analysing literature and its place in society. This book is the first full-length study of the British communist critics of the Thirties. Seeking to relate Marxist literary criticism to the broader history of the communist movement, it shows how the work of the leading critics both reflected and subverted the left-wing orthodoxies of the day.