Picture of author.

A. Alvarez (1929–2019)

Autor(a) de The Savage God: A Study of Suicide

39+ Works 1,938 Membros 28 Críticas 1 Favorited

About the Author

A. Alvarez is the author of the acclaimed Where Did It Go All Right: A Memoir as well as the classic The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, The Biggest Game in Town, and several other works. His work has long appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books
Image credit: Credit: walnut whippet (Flickr user), 2006


Obras por A. Alvarez

The Savage God: A Study of Suicide (1971) 622 exemplares
The New Poetry (1962) — Editor — 269 exemplares
The Biggest Game in Town (1983) 259 exemplares
Feeding the rat (1988) 107 exemplares
The Writer's Voice (1708) 97 exemplares
Beckett (1973) 87 exemplares
Offshore: A North Sea Journey (1986) 31 exemplares
The School of Donne (1961) 30 exemplares
Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal (2013) 30 exemplares
Hers (1974) 21 exemplares
Hunt (1978) 21 exemplares

Associated Works

Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) — Introdução, algumas edições19,269 exemplares
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768) — Introdução, algumas edições1,740 exemplares
The Complete Poems (1968) — Introdução, algumas edições713 exemplares
An African in Greenland (1983) — Introdução, algumas edições577 exemplares
Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression (2001) — Contribuidor — 492 exemplares
The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse (1950) — Contribuidor, algumas edições266 exemplares
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Eleventh Annual Collection (1998) — Contribuidor — 241 exemplares
British Poetry Since 1945 (1970) — Contribuidor, algumas edições167 exemplares
McLuhan, Hot & Cool (1967) — Contribuidor — 158 exemplares
Penguin Modern European Poets : Miroslav Holub : selected poems (1967) — Advisory editor, Introduction — 52 exemplares
Penguin Modern European Poets : Poems of Günter Grass (1969) — Advisory editor — 25 exemplares
American Review #23 (1975) — Contribuidor — 4 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum

Nome legal
Alvarez, Alfred
Data de nascimento
Data de falecimento
Local de nascimento
London, England, UK
Local de falecimento
London, England, UK
University of Oxford (Corpus Christi College)
Plath, Sylvia (friend)
The Observer
Climbers' Club
New York Review of Books
Prémios e menções honrosas
Vachel Lindsay Prize for Poetry (1961)



More like poetry and suicidology, than a stand alone book. In fact, the book seems to be completely composed of separate articles written by the author, strongly supported by a large quote found repeated in two sections. Nevertheless, the first chapter is an interesting personal account of Silva Plath's suicide is a worthwhile read. Then, of course, there are the quotes, which really should be published in a one-a-day calendar.
MXMLLN | 10 outras críticas | Jan 12, 2024 |
Brilliant. Two complaints: 1) somehow Alvarez manages to completely skip over the Victorians (how can a book about suicide and literature ignore Tennyson's "Two Voices"?) and 2) he gets mired in the usual nonsense about mid-20th century verse. The first is rather inexcusable; the second was only a matter of pushing through fifteen or so full pages. Well worth the effort for the rest of the book. Might have convinced me to read Dostoevsky's "Demons" next.
judeprufrock | 10 outras críticas | Jul 4, 2023 |
A beautifully illustrated history of the game from its obscure origins to the world championship tournaments in Las Vegas.
lcl999 | Oct 16, 2022 |
This book has been around for fifty years; the copy I borrowed from the library looks its age. The black cloth spine has faded to gray, and the covers have strips to match after being shelved between two books not as tall. It shows signs of use—-I estimate it's been read about ten times, or once every five years or so.
I'm immersing myself in Sylvia Plath at the moment, and I saw this referenced. A second reason I'm glad I came across it is that I recently read a well-meaning but ultimately unsatisfying anti-suicide tract disguised as a novel. The Savage God (the title is from Yeats, number three on the list of book title sources, after the Bible and Shakespeare) is a more substantial treatment of the topic.
Alvarez knew Sylvia Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes. The book opens with his memoir of their friendship and of Plath's suicide, which is why it appeared listed among further reading at the end of a reference article on her. Alvarez, too, attempted suicide. His account of that episode closes the book, a counterpart to the opening memoir.
The book's main body is divided into three parts of unequal length, with Part Three slightly longer than the first two parts combined. Part One, The Background, briefly traces the history of attitudes toward suicide, from pagan abhorrence to the Stoic embrace of the act. I felt Alvarez did an excellent job of tracing the varying Christian attitude. Both Old and New Testaments record acts of taking one's own like, but not polemically. Augustine had a significant role in the church's condemnation of it. Alvarez points out that this was when martyrdom was becoming rare; until then, it was superfluous to take one's own life since there was ample opportunity to die for one's faith. From the early middle ages to modern times, anyone who committed suicide was made to suffer severe post-mortem dishonor (exclusion from cemeteries, desecration of the corpse, forfeit of his estate to the state).
In Part Two, Alvarez describes six common fallacies about suicide, theories about it in sociology and psychology, and what Alvarez calls feelings about suicide (the complex motives of those who attempt it).
All of this is preliminary to the focus of Alvarez's inquiry: suicide and literature. This is not primarily about how suicide is treated in literature (Goethe's Werther does come up, but Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina, and others do not). Instead, Alvarez investigates suicide reflected in the life and attitudes of writers, beginning with Dante. From him, Alvarez turns to John Donne, the first to write a defense of taking one's own life, then to Thomas Chatterton, who became the prototype of the poet as tragic martyr to his art, a pattern for the Romantic age that followed. Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky are emblematic of the transition to the twentieth century. Then the absurd carnage of World War One laid the groundwork for Dada, in which suicide became stylized as a work of art. In the final chapter, with the same title as the book, Alvarez sums up his thesis with a survey of literature in the half-century between the Great War and the time of this book's writing, beginning with Wilfried Owen. Owen did not commit suicide but returned to the trenches even though he needn't have. But he felt impelled to witness and record the "blindfold look" of those he served alongside, the response to senseless slaughter.
This numbness is characteristic, for Alvarez, of the modern world. "Under the energy, appetite, and constant diversity of the moderns arts," he writes, "is that obdurate core of blankness and insentience which no amount of creative optimism and effort can wholly break down or remove." Alvarez posits two ways in which art has responded to this. One he calls Totalitarian Art, which is not, he notes, the same as traditional art in a totalitarian society. Rather, it is minimal art, stripped of all that traditionally marks the production of creative individuals, since such creators are of no use to the totalitarian state. The opposite is what Alvarez calls Extremist Art. Not nihilist, as Dada was, nor solely confessional, as the Beats are, this is produced by those who have studied and absorbed the forms of technical mastery T. S. Eliot and others of the prior generation, yet confronts the "violent confusions" of its time. Alvarez names as the leading exponents of this style in English-language poetry Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Ted Hughes, and Sylvia Plath. Theirs is poetry that reveals the poet's life; nevertheless, it's the work that is important. The breakdown of one or the suicide of another "adds nothing to the work and proves nothing about it."
In the case of Plath, Alvarez is convinced that her death was the result of a miscalculation. Whereas an attempt ten years earlier was meticulously planned and seemingly insulated against discovery, this one seemed ambivalent (next to her body was a note with the name and telephone number of her doctor). "Her calculation went wrong and she lost," he writes, adding that she wouldn't have approved readers coming to her work because her death had somehow validated the writing.
Alvarez researched his topic extensively, and the result is not light reading. Instead, it is challenging, both in its thesis and prose (which some readers might find dense, although I admired it). In the end, the book can either be viewed as using the lives of writers to illustrate changing attitudes toward suicide or as a work of literary criticism that employs the topos of suicide to dissect and analyze literary trends. I thought it was an ambitious work, well worth reading.
… (mais)
HenrySt123 | 10 outras críticas | Mar 8, 2022 |



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Zsigmond Móricz Contributor
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Jackson Pollock Cover artist
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John Constable Cover designer
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