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The Bughouse

Daniel Swift (Author)

In 1945, the American poet Ezra Pound was due to stand trial for treason for his broadcasts in Fascist Italy during the Second World War.

Before the trial could take place, however, he was pronounced insane. Escaping a possible death sentence, he was sent to St Elizabeths Hospital near Washington, DC, where he was held for over a decade.

At the hospital, Pound was at his most infamous, and most contradictory. He was a genius and a traitor; a great poet and a madman. He was also an irresistible figure and, in his cell on Chestnut Ward and in the elegant hospital grounds, he was visited by the major poets and writers of his time. T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Charles Olson and Frederick Seidel all went to sit with him. They listened to him speak, and wrote of what they had seen. This was perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon: convened by a fascist, held in a lunatic asylum, with chocolate brownies and mayonnaise sandwiches served for tea.

Pound continues to divide all who read and think of him. At the hospital, the doctors who studied him and the poets who learned from him each had a different understanding of this wild and most difficult man. Tracing Pound through the eyes of his visitors, The Bughouse tells the story of politics, madness and modern art in the twentieth century.

Living's The Strange Thing

Carmen Martin Gaite (Author)

As compulsively page-turning as a thriller, Carmen Martin Gaite's drama of broken dreams, lies, and the search for love is an intense meditation on the strange adventure of living

"Ever since the beginning of the world, living and dying have been two sides of one coin, tossed in the air - But for me - to be perfectly honest - living's the strange thing"

The protagonist of this novel, a 35-year-old woman who has lived hard and loved hard, has just lost her mother. Struggling to keep her curiosity about an inexplicable world intact, she finds her precarious equilibrium constantly besieged by resurfacing oddballs from her past and her own tendency to daydream. To force a little structure into her life, she decides to pick up her old, unfinished doctoral dissertation about an extravagant 18th century adventurer. As she wades through old papers in a dusty archive, she is forced to confront her own strange childhood, her parents' strange relationship, and the feelings that bond her to the strange architect she shares a life with.

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