The Waste Land: Biography of a Poem

T. S. Eliot
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  • Full Price: £11.00 Member: Free Other concessions available

With an exclusive filmed reading by Viggo Mortensen.

This event will take place at the British Library. It will be simultaneously live streamed on the British Library platform. Tickets may be booked either to attend in person (physical), or to watch on our platform (online) either live or within 48 hours on catch up. Viewing links will be sent out shortly before the event.

The online version of this event will be live captioned.

Published for the first time on 15 October 1922, T. S. Eliot’s enigmatic masterpiece remains one of the most influential works ever written, and yet one of the most mysterious. Renowned as one of the world’s greatest poems, The Waste Land has been said to describe the moral decay of a world after war and the search for meaning in a meaningless era.

Poet Matthew Hollis introduces his remarkable new literary biography, which reconstructs the intellectual creation of the poem, using a mosaic of historical fragments, diaries, dynamic literary criticism, and illuminating new research. He reveals the cultural and personal trauma that forged The Waste Land through the lives of its protagonists of Ezra Pound, who edited it; of Vivien Eliot, who sustained it; and of T. S. Eliot himself, whose private torment is woven into the seams of the work.

Our event, presented in association with Faber Members, begins with an exclusive screened reading of the poem by actor Viggo Mortensen, unseen since it was filmed live at the British Library in 2015.

Matthew Hollis is joined in conversation by broadcaster and arts writer Jude Rogers, who this Autumn presents a Radio 4 documentary Hold On Tight: The Women Of The Waste Land.

Online event bookers can buy a copy of The Waste Land: Biography of a Poem by Matthew Hollis with a ticket at checkout for £28 (with UK postage) and watch the event for free. International postage will be higher. Books will be posted out within 7 days after the event. Please ensure your address is up to date on your British Library account.

Matthew Hollis is the author of Ground Water, shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry, and Now All Roads Lead to France: A Life of Edward Thomas, winner of the Costa Biography Award and a Sunday Times Biography of the Year. He is the poetry editor at Faber & Faber, London.

Viggo Mortensen is one of the most accomplished screen actors of his generation, a poet, painter, publisher and photographer. Internationally known for his portrayal of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, his reputation has been cemented over the years through astutely chosen roles in films such as The Road, Jauja, Loin des hommes, the David Cronenberg trio – A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method, Captain Fantastic and Green Book.He wrote and directed the 2020 film Falling, and has written, performed and recorded poetry in English and Spanish since the late 1980s.

Jude Rogers is an arts writer and journalist who recently published the acclaimed The Sound of Being Human: How Music Shapes our Lives. She has written for Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times, Times Saturday Review, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Word, MOJO, Q, NME, The Quietus and The Gentlewoman, made acclaimed documentaries for Radio 4, including the 2021 series A Life in Music, and interviewed everyone from Damon Albarn to Billie Eilish, Michael Stipe to Laurie Anderson, Paul Weller to the Pet Shop Boys.

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Name: The Waste Land: Biography of a Poem
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £11.00
Member: £0.00
Student: £5.50
Registered Unemployed: £5.50
Disabled: £5.50
Senior (60+): £9.50
Young Person (18-25): £5.50
Online Full Price: £5.00
Online Member: £0.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
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