Savage Coast by Muriel Rukeyser
(Lost & Found Elsewhere)

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Since the novel was left unfinished, albeit with Rukeyser’s notes regarding the chapters she intended to expand and edit, readers are not likely to cavil over its shortcomings, applauding instead her documentation of a crucial moment in history.
-Publishers Weekly


"At first “Savage Coast” is a train-of-fools comedy; later, it’s a cross-cultural love story Hemingway would have envied for its suddenness." —New York Times Book Review

"Rejected by her publisher in 1937, poet Rukeyser’s newly discovered autobiographical novel is both an absorbing read and an important contribution to 20th-century history.... Ironically, the factors that led to the novel’s rejection—Rukeyser’s avant-garde impressionistic prose style, alternating with realistic scenes of brutal death and a few descriptions of sexual congress—are what make the book appealing today."—Publisher's Weekly

As a young reporter in 1936, Muriel Rukeyser traveled to Barcelona to witness the first days of the Spanish Civil War. She turned this experience into an autobiographical novel so forward thinking for its time that it was never published. Recently discovered in her archive, this lyrical work charts her political and sexual awakening as she witnesses the popular front resistance to the fascist coup and falls in love with a German political exile who joins the first international brigade.

Rukeyser's narrative is a modernist investigation into the psychology of violence, activism, and desire; a documentary text detailing the start of the war; and a testimony to those who fought and died for freedom and justice during the first major battle against European fascism.


About Muriel Rukeyser

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Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) was a prolific American writer and political activist. Defying gender, genre and disciplinary boundaries, she wrote poems, plays, screenplays, essays, translations, biographies, history, journalism and fiction, at times combining multiple forms, on an equally wide variety of subjects. In 1935 her first collection of poetry, Theory of Flight, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize, and she went on to publish twelve more volumes of poetry. Coming of age in the radical 1930s, she used the documentary style of social realism, and often the documents themselves, while at the same time deploying aesthetic and experimental modernist techniques. Her work consistently documented, contextualized and archived stories of injustice, resistance, interconnection, invention and possibility, stories of the people and histories that were marginalized by the master narratives of war, capitalism, patriarchy and nationalism. She witnessed and wrote on the trial of the Scottsboro nine, the Spanish Civil War, the Vietnam war, and the imprisonment of poet Kim Chi-Ha in South Korea, to name only a few examples, and became a key figure for the women's liberation movement. She taught at the California Labor School in 1945, was a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College from 1955-1967, and served as the president of the P.E.N. American Center from 1975-76. There is no doubt that throughout her life she remained at the forefront of 20th-century political and artistic culture, influencing Ann Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Marilyn Hacker, to name a few. Despite a cold-war backlash and long-term FBI surveillance, she continued to write, teach and publish, receiving a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Levison Prize for Poetry, and the Shelly Memorial Award, among other accolades. The Life of Poetry (1949), perhaps her most famous work, is very much a text of the cold-war era, and in it Rukeyser challenges us to examine the violent binaries that produce wars and prevent thinking, calls us to look for the "history of possibility" that exists always, "around and above and under" the other histories. That the text resonates still is an indication not only of her extraordinary critique of the nature of art in times of crisis, but also an indication that the times have changed not nearly enough.Rowena Kennedy-Epstein is a PhD candidate in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she is completing a dissertation on radical politics and experimental forms in the works of 20th-century women writers. Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals.
Published May 17, 2013 by The Feminist Press at CUNY. 352 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Apr 01 2013

Since the novel was left unfinished, albeit with Rukeyser’s notes regarding the chapters she intended to expand and edit, readers are not likely to cavil over its shortcomings, applauding instead her documentation of a crucial moment in history.

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