Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Second Coming - William Butler Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I still have the poetry textbook from which I learned this poem, the margins crammed with scribbled pencil notes. I was sixteen and read it alongside THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe. The first eight lines of poetry seemed so apt in the midst of Apartheid South Africa, and Achebe's book was a revelation.

Decades later, and this week Chinua Achebe was announced winner of the Man Booker International 2007 - a well-deserved honour for a writer who changed the face of African fiction in the twentieth century, and greatly influenced global literature at the time of his earlier works.

The Guardian (see full article here) notes that Nadine Gordimer, on the judging panel, says of Achebe:
"...he has achieved "what one of his characters brilliantly defines as the writer's purpose: 'a new-found utterance' for the capture of life's complexity. This fiction is an original synthesis of the psychological novel, the Joycean stream of consciousness, the post-modern breaking of sequence. He is a joy and an illumination to read."
And the BBC also reports.

I am delighted at the news.

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Anonymous ann said...

I first came across this poem when Trevor Nunn used the first eight lines as a preface to his 1968 production of 'King Lear'. I was converted to Yeats on the spot. I picked up 'Half of a Yellow Sun' from the library yesterday and am really looking forward to reading it.

1:44 pm  
Anonymous Traveller said...

I love Yeats! It's great Achebe was awarded such a prestigious prize, especially as he was never awarded a Nobel, like the Guardian article says.

9:50 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

Ann - hmm, King Lear? How appropriate!

Traveller - totally agree.

10:28 pm  

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