Books: The Great Despiser

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF NATHANAEL WEST (421pp.)—Farrar, Straus & Cudahy ($5).

"After such knowledge, what forgiveness?'' asked T. S. Eliot as he entered the dry season of 1920. At about the same time, another American writer who devoted his life to illuminating this bleakly ruthless question was growing up. Manhattan-born Nathan Weinstein. who later went by the name of Nathanael West, was a knowledgeable man, and nothing he knew induced him to forgive anything. In his brief life (he died* in 1940, aged 37), West wrote only four brief novels, but they were a full life's work. He wrote during that great...

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