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It Was the Nightingale
Edited by John Coyle
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Categories: 20th Century, British, Memoirs
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (386 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2007)
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(Pub. Aug 2007)
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'There was never a day so gay for the Arts as any twenty-four hours of the early 'twenties in Paris...But I had a year or so to wait before that ambience was to enfold me. I begin with the day of my release from service in His Britannic Majesty's army - in early 1919.'
During a Christmas leave in London, Ford Madox Ford attended a party at the French Embassy, 'a heavy blond man in a faded uniform', wearied by years of war, recalled to a longing for the life of a writer. The evening marks the beginning of a new phase of Ford's life, the years of It Was the Nightingale.
Ford evokes the literary milieux of London, Paris and New York between the wars with sparkle, wit and energy. Recollections range across time in a subtle and flexible narrative that fuses fiction and memoir. A memory of a dark January day in Paris, in the weeks 'between dog and wolf', when Ford read the news of the death of the novelist John Galsworthy, triggers an exploration of the transition from an entire pre-war world: a ghost had passed, writes Ford, and Nancy Cunard steps forward 'like a jewelled tropical bird'. Here is James Joyce, whom Ford found dull company with his 'thin little jokes'; Ezra Pound playing Provencal songs on the bassoon; Gertrude Stein driving through the streets of Paris with the solemn 'snail-like precision' of a Pharoah. Behind the vivacity other ghosts, too, are always present: men killed and damaged in the war, mental breakdown and betrayal, out of which Ford was to create his best-loved novel, Parade's End.
Cover painting Janice Biala, Ford Madox Ford in Toulon, 1932. Private collection.
A Note on the Text
It Was the Nightingale
To Eugene Pressly, Esquire
Part One “Domine Dirige Nos”
Part Two “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur”
Part Three “E Pluribus Multa”
Praise for Ford Madox Ford 'what Ford conveys above all is less his particular preference than his radical passion for the novel as an instrument and what can be done with it.'
C.H. Sisson 'It displays Ford's dedication to his art; it demonstrates, also, the possibilities of English prose in the hands of a master.'
Peter Ackroyd, The Sunday Times 'The Rash Act ought to be bought and read by all interested in the novel as an art form... The action takes place in the French South which Ford loved, but man no longer sustains the tradition of myth and history which that region once represented... Here in The Rash Act we have the death of morality and responsibility - a forbidding theme, but, in the paradox of art, it is made to serve a tapestry of rich colour and galloping vivacity.'
Anthony Burgess, Observer 'No Enemy is Ford Madox Ford's little-known First World War novel, musing and reflective, published for the first time in Britain by Carcanet and ably edited by Paul Skinner. Congratulations to them both.'
Alan Judd, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 30th June 2002 'Of the various demands... that he show us the way in which a society works, that he show an understanding of the human heart, that he create characters in whose reality we believe and for whose fate we care, that he describe things and people so that we feel their physical presence, that he illuminate our moral consciousness, that he make us laugh and cry, that he delight us by his craftmanship, there is not one, it seems to me, that Ford does not completely satisfy.'
W. H. Auden
'Ford Madox Ford's Parad's End, arguably the most sophisticated British fiction to come out of that war. Carcanet's reissue of the first volume, Some Do Not (£18.95), is the first reliable text, reconstructing Ford's dramatic original ending. Brilliantly edited by Max Saunders and now to be filmed (scripted by Tom Stoppard), it deserves to be and will be better known.'
Alan Judd, Books of the Year 2010, The Spectator.'Of the various demands one can make of the novelist, that he show us the way in which a society works, that he show an understanding of the human heart, that he create characters whose reality we believe and for whose fate we care, that he describe things and people so that we feel their physical presence, that he illuminate our moral consciousness, that he make us laugh and cry, that he delight us by his craftsmanship, there is not one, it seems to me, that Ford does not completely satisfy. There are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parade's End is one of them.'
We thank the Arts Council England for their support and assistance in this interactive Project.
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