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This pamphlet contains the answers to a political questionnaire issued by the poet and activist Nancy Cunard in 1937. The questionnaire asked writers to state their position regarding the civil war in Spain, which was seen as crucial opportunity to stop the advance of fascism in Europe. 148 writers, among them T S Eliot, Ezra Pound, W H Auden, Rebecca West, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Samuel Beckett sent their replies, a few of which are reproduced here. ‘Authors Take Sides’ has since become one of the most quoted documents in assessments of the political sympathies of many of the most renowned British writers of the 1930s.
It is clear to many of us throughout the whole world that now, as certainly never before, we are determined or compelled, to take sides. The equivocal attitude, the Ivory Tower, the paradoxical, the ironic detachment, will no longer do.
The answers to the survey were classified as follows: ‘For the Republic, against Franco and Fascism: 127. Neutral: 16. Pro-Franco and Pro-Fascism: 5’. The responses were overwhelmingly in support of the Spanish Republic, evidencing the strong anti-fascist sentiment prevalent among writers and artists. Some authors, however, did not agree with being forced to ‘take sides’. Eliot replied that he was ‘convinced that it is best that at least a few men of letters should remain isolated, and take no part in these collective activities’.
Answers differed in length and style: from Aldous Huxley’s lengthy response advocating pacifism, to Beckett’s famously concise contribution, ‘¡UPTHEREPUBLIC!’ – which continues to divide critics, undecided whether to interpret it as passionate or ironic.
Nancy Cunard: © Literary Estate of Nancy Cunard. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
W H Auden: © Copyright by the Estate of W. H. Auden. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
Samuel Beckett: © Reproduced by kind permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett c/o Rosica Colin Limited, London. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. Acting as agent, copyright © 1991 by the Trustees of the Ezra Pound Literary Property Trust. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Aldous Huxley: © The Aldous and Laura Huxley Literary Trust, Mark Treven Huxley and Teresa Huxley. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
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