the bond markets are just another public welfare recipient and will go cap in hand to government on whatever terms the latter offers should it have the economic gumption to realise who is in charge

April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Rukeyser escaped Spain after five days on an overcrowded Spanish ship. There were rumors that the People’s Olympiad would be rescheduled for October, which, of course, did not happen. Rukeyser attempted to make her way back to Spain to cover the war, but she couldn’t find a way in. “I could not go back; nobody would send me,” she wrote in the Esquire article. “You had to belong to a party or an organization or something, or have a press card. Nobody would give me a press card.” Nonetheless, she wrote later that experiencing war’s earliest thunder marked her. This was, she said, the time where “I began to say what I believed.” She was twenty-two years old.

Later, that autumn of 1936, Rukeyser wrote the only novel of her life, an autobiographical tale written in high modernist style about being a foreigner in Barcelona as war loomed. Each chapter begins with quotations, many from newspapers that seem pasted like clippings. Chapter One opens with a Reuters dispatch: “On Saturday, according to all the latest reports, Barcelona was calm and as yet not a shot had been fired.” These epigraphs give a mournful historical sheen to a fictionalized, and often baldly strange, narrative. Sex and politics loom large here. Individual psychology and momentous social change fuse together, paralleling Rukeyser’s hybridic use of poetry and prose on these pages.

Rukeyser sent the novel to a publisher in 1937, but it was rejected, in rather harsh terms. She nonetheless tinkered with the manuscript for years. But though Rukeyser would go on to publish many more books of poetry and essays—quite often about Spain’s war, which haunted her for the rest of her life—her novel was never published. The only remaining draft of it ended up being filed in an unmarked and undated Library of Congress folder—that is, lost. While interest bloomed in how other major twentieth-century writers approached the Spanish Civil War—Hemingway, Orwell—Rukeyser’s perspective was not part of the narrative.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Anna Balecho

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