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- "W. H. Auden was the greatest English poet of the twentieth century. As witness to many of the century's pivotal moments - Berlin in the 1920s, Spain and China in the 1930s, wartime and postwar America - and because of his consuming quest to translate the social, political, and cultural upheavals into poetry, his importance at century's end is undeniable. It is Richard Davenport-Hines' achievement in this biography (the first in fifteen years) to make clear the extent of Auden's achievement - as a poet, a librettist, and an essayist - and to show how his works serve as a commentary on the wars, ideologies, spiritual questioning, and sexual attitudes of the time in which he lived. Auden's ambition was to be a great poet. Beyond his intense need to experience and to be consumed by experience, there was also an inexhaustible curiosity about ideas, a passion for understanding, and a desire for wisdom. In an age when heroic conceptions are no longer useful, Auden's outer and inner travels and his dedication to writing establish his life as a model of what it means to be a poet today, and underscore the tremendous cost, in the words of Auden's friend Hannah Arendt, of following the "heart's invisible furies." In Auden, Davenport-Hines has given us a portrait that is fresh, convincing and exemplary."