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The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem

Matthew Hollis

A riveting account of the making of T. S. Eliot’s celebrated poem The Waste Land, by a Costa award-winning biographer.

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** Chosen as a New Statesman, Financial Times, Observer and Sunday Times Book of the Year **

A riveting account of the making of T. S. Eliot’s celebrated poem The Waste Land on its centenary.

‘A rattling good story’ Sunday Telegraph
‘A work of art’ Times Literary Supplement

The Waste Land has been called the ‘World’s Greatest Poem’. It has been labelled the most truthful poem of its time; it has been branded a masterful fake. More than a century after its publication in 1922, T. S. Eliot’s enigmatic masterpiece remains one of the most influential works ever written.

In a remarkable feat of biography, Matthew Hollis reconstructs the creation of the poem and brings the material reality of its charged times vividly to life. He reveals the cultural and personal trauma that forged The Waste Land through the lives of its protagonists — Ezra Pound, who edited it; Vivien Eliot, who sustained it; and T. S. Eliot himself, whose private torment is woven into the seams of the work. The result is an unforgettable story of lives passing in opposing directions and the astounding literary legacy they would leave behind.


Matthew Hollis is the author of Ground Water, shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry. Now All Roads Lead to France: the Last Years of Edward Thomas (published by Faber, in 2011) won the Costa Biography Award and was Sunday Times Biography of the Year.

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