A unique opportunity to hear one of the masterpieces of English literature read live by Viggo Mortensen in the British Library Entrance Hall
The reading is presented in association with the T S Eliot Estate and Faber & Faber, for whom he was one of the voices for their ground breaking The Waste Land app.
Doors open at 19.30, with a bar available, and the reading will begin at 20.15.
Seated tickets are available to book now, as well as a smaller number of standing-only places to hear and watch the reading from the upper balconies.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire ..." So begins The Waste Land, T S Eliot's most famous poem – a work which still surprises and excites with its technical ambition, its range and complexity, its startling images. One of the iconic works of Modernism and one of the great 20th-century poems in English, The Waste Land places the spiritual emptiness of modern urban existence within an intricate, allusive montage which draws on history, literature, myth, and world religions:
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1888 and died in London 50 years ago in 1965. He lived in St Louis during the first eighteen years of his life and attended Harvard University and the Sorbonne before settling in London in 1915. Under the influence of his contemporary Ezra Pound, he began to write and publish his poetry widely, most notably the collection Prufrock and Other Observations in 1917. This, and The Waste Land (1922) established Eliot as a leading poet of the avant-garde and for the rest of his life he was the dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world. His major later poetry collections include Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1943) and his books of literary and social criticism include The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933) and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940). Eliot was also an important playwright, whose verse dramas include Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, and The Cocktail Party.
Long associated with the publishing house of Faber & Faber, T S Eliot published many younger poets, and eventually became director of the firm. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.
Viggo Mortensen is one of the most accomplished and distinctive screen actors of his generation. Internationally known for his portrayal of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003), his reputation has been cemented over the years through astutely chosen roles in films such as The Road, Jauja, Loin des hommes, and in the David Cronenberg trio – A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method.
He has written, performed and recorded poetry since the late 1980s and published collections of his poems include Ten Last Night, Recent Forgeries, Coincidence of Memory, Skovbo, and Canciones de invierno. In 2002, he founded Perceval Press, an independent publishing house specializing in poetry, photography, painting, and critical writing.
The British Library is marking fifty years since the death of T S Eliot with a small display in its Treasures Gallery. A further event takes place on 12 October, when Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue discuss their new critical edition of Eliot's poetry.
Image courtesy of Suki Dhanda