Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin
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Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of Pages: 160
Width: 16.4 cm
Height: 24.2 cm
At his death in 2016, Geoffrey Hill left behind The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin, his last work, a sequence of more than 270 poems, to be published posthumously as his final statement. Written in long lines of variable length, with much off-rhyme and internal rhyme, the verse-form of the book stands at the opposite end from the ones developed in the late Daybooks of Broken Hierarchies (2013), where he explored highly taut constructions such as Sapphic meter, figure-poems, fixed rhyming strophes, and others. The looser metrical plan of the new book admits an enormous range of tones of voices. Thematically, the work is a summa of a lifetime's meditation on the nature of poetry. A riot of similes about the poetic art makes a passionate claim for the enduring strangeness of poetry in the midst of its evident helplessness. The relation between art and spirituality is another connecting thread. In antiquity, Justin's gnostic Book of Baruch was identified as the 'worst of heresies,' and the use of it in Hill's poem, as well as the references to alchemy, heterodox theological speculation, and the formal logics of mathematics, music, and philosophy are made coolly, as art and as emblems for our inadequate and perplexed grasp of time, fate, and eternity. A final set of themes is autobiographical, including Hill's childhood, the bombing of London, his late trip to Germany, his alarm and anger at Brexit, and his sense of decline and of death close at hand. It is a great work, and in Hill's oeuvre it is a uniquely welcoming work, open to all comers.
[Geoffrey Hill's] final testimony, The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin, still felt timely in its tintinnabulous quarrelling with post-imperial Britain. It is not the place to start with Hill's work, but it was a barnstorming last bow. * Jeremy Noel-Todd, The Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2019 * Relentlessly quotable. * Tristram Fane Saunders, The Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year 2019 * Selected as a 2019 Book of the Year in The Times Literary Supplement Hill's deployment of his own notions of true and false gnosis gives the book a kind of key signature, pointing away from the world of "Widely applauded honours and prizes" towards what's authentic, exemplary and potentially restorative. * Fraser Steel, Church Times * A wonderful combination of visionary genius, cross old git, and lyric majesty ... Crammed with interest. Disturbing. Infuriating and sometimes pretentious nonsense. There is no doubting Hill's greatness. Helas! * A.N. Wilson, The Church Times, Books of the Year 2019 * The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin [...] reads as if John Milton had joined forces with John Berryman to engage in a passionate diatribe-cum-elegy on the state of the nation and the state of poetry, not without reference to Brexit, the Blitz and Hill's own imminent demise. An unacknowledged legislator for our time? You bet. * Harry Eyres, The Tablet, Books of the Year 2019 * remarkable testamentary volume... There is scarcely one of the 271 sections in this book that does not assail the reader with the force of a vatic last judgment... The Book of Baruch is a work of the sovereign imagination" * David Wheatley, The Guardian * The Book of Baruch is, without doubt, one of the most extraordinary books of the Brexit era. * Jeremy Noel-Todd, The Sunday Times * It is among his greatest work. * Nicholas Lezard, The Spectator * In its passion and clarity, The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin will be gratefully received by those who find Hill's earlier work his most affecting ... and in addition [it has] a good deal of the grandeur (and less of the grandiosity) of his later work ... But in its sheer abundance, as well as its manifold beauties and rigorous interrogations, the book can only confirm our sense of the magnitude of his achievement. * Andrew Motion, Times Literary Supplement * Hill has been very well served by the excellent Kenneth Haynes, who saw both his prose and his poetry into the magnificence of their Oxford editions while Hill was alive, and who now brings this final posthumous poem to press. * Seamus Perry, London Review of Books * This posthumous collection ... embodies a controversial but impassioned idea of what poetry is and does. It deserves our respectful, careful attention. * David Womersley, Standpoint * The book was probably never meant to be finished - it's a scrapheap he might have added to for years, scraping, fine-tuning, revising in eternal contention with the world, with himself ... The whole is riveting and a little mad, laid out in mouse print like an interminable sonata of footnotes. * William Logan, New Criterion * [The Book of Baruch] was composed in the last few years and months of Hill's life and its faithful editing by Kenneth Haynes is itself a remarkable work of scholarship. * Jeffrey Wainwright, PN Review * If you know and like Hill, this volume is clearly a must. * Brian McClorry SJ, Thinking Faith * Certainly nothing for those who want their verse accessible and familiar, but for anyone open to this sort of thing The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin is a fascinating (and occasionally daunting-to-maddening) treasure trove. * M.A.Orthofer, Complete Review * The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin resists classification. It is a magnificent conclusion to his oeuvre, and will, I'm sure, be seen by future critics as a key text of our troubled times. * Shiny New Books * An engaging curiosity... Arguably resembling a prose poem, these not-quite-paragraphs deliver a thunderous, line-by-line, biblical cadence while internal and off-rhymes proliferate at a near... sing-song rate. * Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi Review *