Books: Circles of Perdition

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Twipe, Twipe, Twipe. Miss West's present political temper worries her Laborite friends. "The individualist," she wrote recently, "is being looted by his own country as if it were an enemy." She has lately been raising the dust with her articles (in the Evening Standard) on the Fascist open-air meetings in London and the political use that the Communists are making out of them. She heard herself denounced by one little soapboxer who, unfortunately, could not pronounce the letter R. He rose to a climax with the cry: "I want to say that Miss Webecca West's articles are twipe, twipe, twipe from the gweatest twipe shop in the universe, Fleet Stweet."

Rebecca West rather enjoys it. For with all her warmth of heart and incandescence of mind, she is seldom averse to a good brawl. She listens, calmly poised for pouncing, when she is called a Fascist, a Communist, an anti-Semite, though she is none of those things. The root of the misunderstanding is that in a world racked by partisan passion, which more & more insists on viewing men in black & white, as caricatures of good or evil, she finds them blends of both. Her view asserts the faith that what distinguishes men, not so much from the brutes as from their more habitual selves, is the fact that however tirelessly they pursue evil, their inveterate aspiration, invariable even in depravity, is never for anything else but for the good.

This faith Rebecca West tries to express with a tonality equal to its meaning. Thus, in a prosy age, her style strives continually toward a condition of poetry, and comes to rest in a rhetoric that, at its best, is one of the most personal and eloquent idioms of our time.

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