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Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist

Posted by Dreamer

The biography of the extraordinary English poet, editor, journalist, political activist, and cultural icon Nancy Cunard, Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist, traces Nancy’s life from her birth in England to her death in France, taking the reader on a journey through Europe and America from World War I and the Jazz Age to the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Lois Gordon presents us with a fascinating, well-researched portrait of a woman always ready to risk it all for what she believed in.

Like a phantom, Nancy Cunard’s name has been linked in passing to numerous great writers and artists of the first half of the twentieth century, such as Samuel Beckett, Pablo Neruda, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, Tristan Tzara, and countless others. Her name has often been invoked in their artist biographies or in historical studies of the twentieth century, but usually only briefly, as an artist’s muse or lover, editor of the Hours Press, heiress to the Cunard shipping fortune, or simply as a personality of the time. It was with this Nancy Cunard that I was familiar.

Yet in her book Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist, Lois Gordon brings us closer to another Nancy Cunard. Nancy Cunard the precocious socialite turned writer and political activist. The woman who brashly turned her back on her social class, fought tirelessly for social and racial justice, risked her life to fight fascism and aid refugees, lived art as a vocation and a religion, and died without a penny to her name.

Gordon shows us the scope of Nancy’s singularity, and how she used her pen to fight injustice in the world as a reporter and a publisher. But even without her pen, Nancy’s contributions were formidable.

While Lois Gordon certainly admires her subject, she isn’t afraid to detail Nancy’s alcoholism, promiscuousness, or reveal the violent fights she had with some lovers.

All in all, Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist is a good read and an in-depth look at a woman of immense courage and strength who never hesitated to crusade and risk it all for a just cause. It was about time someone took notice.

Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist by Lois Gordon. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. 504 pages.
Buy the book in Europe or buy the book in North America.


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The biography of the extraordinary English poet, editor, journalist, political activist, and cultural icon Nancy Cunard, Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist, traces Nancy’s life from her birth in England to her death in France, taking the reader on a journey through Europe and America from World War I and the Jazz Age to the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Lois Gordon presents us with a fascinating, well-researched portrait of a woman always ready to risk it all for what she believed in.

Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist

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