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An intimate portrait of Stephen Spender's extraordinary life written by his son, Matthew Spender, with new insights drawn from personal recollections and unpublished archives. Stephen Spender's life, with all its secrets, successes and contradictions, is a vivid prism through which to view the twentieth century. He made friends with W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood while at Oxford, and together the three had wild adventures in Europe, where they became early critics of Hitler and the rise of fascism. Like his friends, Stephen was drawn to other men, yet he eventually married Natasha Litvin, an ambitious young concert pianist, and together they started a family.Matthew Spender grew up in postwar England as the child of two celebrated artists deeply immersed in the political and cultural life of their times. Taught how to use adjectives by Auden and raised among an influential elite, Matthew led what might have been a charmed existence, were it t for the tensions within his own household. His father, always susceptible to the allure of young men, was unable either to stop himself for the sake of his family, or to reveal his secret life; and his mother's suffering led her on a strange introspective quest of her own.`A House in St. John's Wood' is at once a remarkably clear-eyed attempt to make sense of the many conflicting messages of his unconventional youth and a deeply felt portrait of his magnetic father and guarded mother. Drawing on a wide range of unpublished letters and diaries, secret documents and youthful memories, Matthew Spender tells the story of a singular family caught in the midst of its own cold war.
Born in 1945, Matthew Spender is a sculptor and the author of 'Within Tuscany: Reflections on a Time and a Place' and 'From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky'. He lives with his wife, artist Maro Gorky, on a farm near Siena.