The War Years Continued
In mid-June 1941, Brasch read D. H. Lawrence's Kangaroo, Goethe's lyrical West-östlicher Divan, and then Stephen Spender and Joan L. Gili's translation of Federico Garciá Lorca's Poems (1939), a very successful publication for Gili's own Dolphin Books. Brasch was intrigued by the sensual differences Lorca (1898-1936) evoked in his work, and wrote: 'It struck me that it might be fruitful to approach Maori life & Polynesian life generally by way of this warm-blooded Spanish world, rather than in the usual European cold formally-appraising way.' Lorca's best works include Blood Wedding (1933) and Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter (1935), titles that Brasch also owned.
Of a total of 160 linear metres of books in Brasch's library, there is almost 7 linear metres of Russian literature. Turgenev, Gorky, Pushkin, Blok, and Pasternak are represented as well as Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), whose works Brasch read in editions translated by Constance Garnett. After relinquishing Landfall in 1966, Brasch embarked on a rigorous study of Russian. Typical of his own scholarly thoroughness, he began translating various works, including poems by the Russian poet Sergei Esenin. Here is his Garnett edition of The Possessed.
In July 1941, Brasch was working at the Intelligence Centre at Bletchley, and he maintained its administration system was like that portrayed in Kafka's The Castle, a book he had bought in Sydney in 1930. Frustration continued, and on 6 December 1942, while 'disjointed & dejected', he read an article by the American writer Henry Miller, who forcefully expressed 'the complete misdirection of our civilization.' One option was mooted by Brasch: a direct return to New Zealand to live in quiet obscurity and grow vegetables and pick fruit. Here is Brasch's copy of Miller's Best of, edited by Lawrence Durrell.
During his Oxford years, Brasch read Shelley (1792-1822) 'wholly uncritical'. Indeed, the poet so 'intoxicated' Brasch that he 'wrote pseudo-Shelleyan verse.' By April 1943, he was more critical. While still warming to Alastor and The Revolt of Islam, Brasch was 'struck chiefly by their imperfections & by the thinness of the ideas. They are passionate always, often happily simple, but rarely sensuous, lost in a vague mist of light & speed & music.' Purchased in London in March 1928, this copy has a loose note by Brasch on Shelley's output, and a typed copy of a poem by Robert Graves from his Crowning Privilege (1955).