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WH Auden 1907-1973

Biography

From enfant terrible to master technician, Wystan Hugh Auden remains a giant of 20th century literature. His 400 published poems cover of vast array of themes, subjects and styles, establishing a reputation as a witty, versatile and prolific writer.

Auden was born in York on 21 February 1907 and educated at Oxford University. After graduation he lived in Berlin for a year, returning to England to become a teacher, where his early poetry marked him out as a progressive yet accessible new voice. In 1935, Auden married a German, Erika Mann, in a marriage of convenience to enable her to escape Nazi Germany - Auden was himself homosexual. In 1939, Auden emigrated, along with Christopher Isherwood, whom he collaborated with on a number of plays, to the United States. From there he continued to publish poetry, including, in 1947, The Age of Anxiety, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. In New York, Auden met poet Chester Kallman who would be his companion for the rest of his life, and, in 1946, took US citizenship. In 1972, with his health declining, Auden left America and moved to Oxford, dividing his time between a cottage at Christ Church college and a home in Austria. He died in Austria on 29 September 1973.

Auden's popularity was boosted considerably in the 1990s when his poem Funeral Blues ("Stop all the clock...") was featured in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. As a result a 1996 reissued collection of his works, Tell Me the Truth About Love, sold in access of 275,000 copies. His poem September 1, 1939, written about the start of the Second World War, was rediscovered and widely broadcast in America after the events of 9/11.

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WH Auden reads After Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics (requires RealPlayer)

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