The failure of the marriage between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has always been considered from one of two conflicting viewpoints: hers or his. Missing for more than four decades has been a third perspective on the events that brought their marriage to its ill-fated end, the story of another—the other—woman: Hughes’ mistress Assia Wevill.
Like Plath before her, Assia shared her life with Hughes for seven years, until she took her own life and that of their daughter at the age of forty-two, in a manner that nearly replicated Plath’s suicide six years earlier. Drawing on previously unavailable documents and private papers, including Assia’s diaries and her intimate correspondence with Hughes, this book shows the vital influence Assia exerted on the poet and his work, and the uneasy life they shared under the long shadow of Plath.
A Lover of Unreason is the first-ever full-length biography of Assia Wevill. It casts a keen light, and explores the emergence of a singular twentieth-century woman. Three-times divorcée, career woman, mistress, and single mother, Assia Wevill openly defied the conventions of a censorious pre-feminist Britain and mesmerized men and women alike with her quick-mind and exotic beauty.
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Eilat Negevi is the senior literary correspondent for Yedioth Achronot , the major Israeli daily newspaper. She has published two books in Hebrew— Intimate Conversations (1995) and Private Lives (2001)—both of them collections of her interviews with authors, and a similar collection in English, Close Encounters . Most recently she coauthored In Our Hearts We Were Giants with Yehuda Koren, with whom she lives in Jerusalem.
Yehuda Koren is a freelance journalist. He writes features for the British, Israeli, and German press, including the London Times , the Guardian , the Daily Telegraph , and Die Welt . A frequent traveler to Europe, he has interviewed many prominent academics and writers, among them George Steiner, Theodor Zeldin, Martin Amis, Roddy Doyle, and Eri de Luca. In 1994 Koren published his first book A Straight Line in the Circle of Life: The Biography of an Israeli General . His second book was In Our Hearts We Were Giants , which he coauthored with Eilat Negev.
Both Koren and Negev receive frequent invitations to speak about their experience as authors and journalists at writing conferences and book events in the United States and the UK. They participated in the International Miami Book Fair in 2004, and they took part in numerous programs during Jewish Book Month. They have spoken about and read from their work at bookshops, book clubs, libraries, schools, and universities, before audiences of all types and ages.
Their expertise on the subjects of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, as well as Assia Wevill, took Koren and Negev to Indiana University in October 2002, where they were the keynote speakers at Plath's 70th anniversary symposium—an event attended by an international audience of the foremost Plath scholars and ardent students of her poetry. Three years later, in October 2005, before a similarly discerning audience, they delivered the closing lecture of the Hughes International Conference at Emory University.
The "other woman" in the Sylvia Plath–Ted Hughes divorce receives long-delayed consideration in this assiduously researched, compulsively readable biography, where the authors draw on newly revealed primary sources. The life of thrice-married Assia Wevill (1927–1969) makes a fascinating story even before her six-year affair with Hughes and the birth of his (unacknowledged) daughter, Shura. Born in Berlin of a Russian Jewish father and a German Lutheran mother, raised in Tel Aviv, married to a British soldier in order to gain a British passport, Assia was, as the authors demonstrate, a smoldering femme fatale, albeit highly intelligent, witty and talented. While Koren and Negev (In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe) don't whitewash Assia's volatile, self-absorbed personality or her serial adulteries, they do contradict the widespread impression that Assia was the initial seducer of Hughes. This will be an important book for Hughes scholars, primarily for the authors' exclusive 1996 interview with the poet, in which he identified the poems he wrote alluding to Assia after her death, which he felt no critic had ever interpreted correctly. Newly revealed letters and interviews reinforce previous accounts of Hughes's sexual attraction and the dedicated philandering that drove two women to suicide. Photos. (Jan. 23)
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