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The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem

Matthew Hollis

A scintillating account of the making of The Waste Land on its centenary—and a remarkable feat of biography and storytelling.

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The Waste Land is the greatest poem of the age. But a century after its publication in 1922, T. S. Eliot’s masterpiece remains a work of comparative mystery. In this gripping account, award-winning biographer Matthew Hollis reconstructs the making of the poem and brings its times vividly to life.

He tells the story of the cultural and personal trauma that forged the poem through the interleaved lives of its protagonists – of Ezra Pound, who edited it, of Vivien Eliot, who endured it, and of T. S. Eliot himself whose private torment is woven into the fabric of the work. The result is an unforgettable story of lives passing in opposing directions: Eliot’s into redemptive stardom, Vivien’s into despair, Pound’s into unforgiving darkness.


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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