Read Savage Coast by Muriel Rukeyser Rowena Kennedy-Epstein Online


"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 l"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 WeeklyAs 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.Muriel Rukeyser (1913–1980) was a prolific American writer and political activist, influencing generations of poets including Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, and Alice Walker, to name a few. She wrote on the Scottsboro trial in Alabama, the Spanish Civil War, the Vietnam War, and the imprisonment of poet Kim Chi-Ha in South Korea. She was one of the few modernist writers to champion social justice issues, showing the place of memory and feelings in politics. Rukeyser's centenary will be celebrated in 2013.Rowena Kennedy-Epstein is a PhD candidate in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York....

Title : Savage Coast
Author :
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ISBN : 9781558618206
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Savage Coast Reviews

  • Steve
    2018-09-22 17:09

    Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) in 1940Another fine novel by a poet! Everyone knows who won the war. The train went flashing down France toward Spain, a stroke of glass and fine metal in the night. Its force of speed held the power of a water-race, and dark, excited, heavy before morning: it was traveling, lapping in the country, in speed.So opens the poet Muriel Rukeyser's Savage Coast, an autobiographical novel written immediately upon her return from Spain in the autumn of 1936. Panned by her editor as "BAD" and "a waste of time," with a protagonist who is "too abnormal for us to respect," the manuscript was buried in a drawer not to be dug out again until 2013 by the Feminist Press, for which I am grateful.Opening with the joy of a 24 year old American woman traveling alone to the counter-Olympics held by leftists in Barcelona(*) and initially discounting vague rumors of an uprising in Morocco (which was the opening gambit in Franco's fascist revolution), Savage Coast commences daubed with excitement and the strong colors of high summer Catalonia. But Republican soldiers are stationed everywhere, including in the train bringing the mixed bag of characters to Barcelona, which comes to a stop in a small town north of Barcelona, held there by the general strike called when the fascists attacked the organs of the Second Spanish Republic in all the major cities. These attacks were largely beaten off, but only temporarily.Rukeyser beautifully captures the confusion, fear and excitement of the opening days of the Spanish Civil War. Particularly poignant for me was the image of the truckload of boys, not one older than eighteen, proudly proclaiming that they were anarchists on the way to Barcelona, for I know that there they would be murdered not only by the fascists but also by the Stalinists. As usual, the United Front only lasted as long as it suited the purposes of the Stalinists.Rukeyser's alter ego, Helen, makes it to Barcelona in a truck convoy with her new friends and lover, a runner on the German team, where snipers harry each other and the civilians, cars full of young men with weapons sticking out of every window are moving through the streets, and the Olympic teams scramble for room and board under most exceptional circumstances. Rukeyser is careful that her narrator knows no more than she herself must have done under the circumstances. Her dialogues go a long way towards mirroring the hesitations, the non sequiturs, the talking past one another, and, often enough, the emptiness of conversations, particularly in conversations of persons under stress.I wonder what, exactly, Rukeyser's editor found to be "too abnormal for us to respect" about Helen? Was it that she was traveling alone in a foreign country, that she had leftist sympathies, that she took a lover outside of wedlock, that she was much more unsure and tentative than one first believed but grew to greater self-confidence in the course of the text? Thank goodness it no longer matters a damn what he thought, since Helen is no longer a rarity and Rukeyser's witness to the first week of the civil war is finally made available to us. (*) The official Olympics were the infamous games held in Berlin as a publicity stunt by the Nazis.

  • Brianna Kovan
    2018-10-13 10:17

    It's rare to stumble upon an old work that carries a freshness to it; the story is dated decades, but the style carries a contemporary voice. But that very much describes Savage Coast. In Rukeyser's story, she places her female protagonist in Spain near the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The political and emotional climates are therefore tense. But the story does not focus on the war. Instead, the plot follows Helen - the central character - through personal awakenings. Rukeyser's prose is beautifully crafted and genuine, easing the reader along with Helen. We meet Hans, the German athlete with whom Helen begins a romantic relationship. We meet Peter and Olive, train companions.The characters meet aboard this train, immediately placing the story within the context of motion: moving forward, progressing, advancing. And yet ironically, for the majority of the novel, the train is stationary. Instead, their personal and social stories carry the momentum."As she shut her eyes, knowing the train lay dead in a dead station, she felt a powerful muscular motion around her: the train, the secret hills, the country, the whole world of war rushing down the tracks, headfirst in conflict like a sea, unshakable, the momentum adding until the need burst through all other barriers" (78).The social climate is changing, and by grounding the story with the train, Rukeyser reminds the reader. Europe is ripping apart by the seams: the Nationalist movement in Spain mirrors the Fascism to the East. Rukeyser carefully weaves the universality of the conflict into Helen's encounters. She repeatedly struggles against language barriers, searching to express herself. And yet, since many of the other characters are struggling with the same issue, Helen perseveres. When the characters cross paths, they cross stories. Share stories. Rukeyser's gentle commentary on the power of unspoken language is gorgeous."They shook hands with a smiling curious intensity, trying to find language in that touch" (76).The characters are searching, finding, probing. Ultimately, they're moving - not physically, but emotionally. And within this emotional climate, Helen is grasping for her own agency.Rukeyser crafts a truly gorgeous novel, a blending of poetry and prose that reflects the unstable Spanish climate in the 1930s. As Rowena Kennedy-Epstein notes in the book's Introduction, "Rukeyser situates her female protagonist as the mediator, narrator, and embodiment of a changing twentieth-century political landscape." Rukeyser dances with the plot in this way: Helen's individual story line reflects outwardly. Built with poetic language, Rukeyser ensures that nothing is simple. Everything is changing. And from this "powerful muscular motion," Helen - carrying the reader in tow - travels along the "savage coast."

  • Nathan
    2018-10-13 11:02

    Instead of reading what Corporate Americana tells you to read, including such as that Go Mockingbirdjay WhatKnot, maybe give this BURIED=in=the=ARCHIVE novel, which was only very recently unEARTH'd from the author's ARCHIVE by a dedicated reader and pub'd post=humously by The Feminist Press, about the Spanish Civil War, a read=through. [Thanks for the heads=up, Tuck!]"¡UPTHEREPUBLIC!" -Samuel Beckett's contribution to Voices Against Tyranny: Writing of the Spanish Civil War

  • Peggy
    2018-09-21 15:02

    Savage Coast is a wonderfully romantic novel written by the poet Muriel Rukeyser. It's the fictionalization of a significant event in Rukeyser's life when she went to Spain in 1936 to report on an alternative to the Berlin Olympics by anti-fascist athletes. The novel begins on a train. The main character, Helen, is traveling alone, and is moving about the train, trying to find a comfortable place and compatible traveling companions. She meets another American woman traveling alone, but Mrs. Peapack is politically ignorant, with a sense of privilege Helen finds irritating. She ends up joining a group of Spanish women in the third class compartment, but feels a sense of obligation to Mrs. Peapack and she moves between the two carriages. Eventually, the train slows and finally stops before its destination. There is a general strike. The Fascists have attacked Catalonia. The civil war has started. The train is full of athletes and foreigners, who now must negotiate food, water, toilet facilities, and shelter, in a small Spanish town that is unprepared to meet the crush of guests. Helen meets a couple with political sensibilities very similar to her own. She also forms an immediate and intense connection with a German runner and has a stunning, unforgettable night with him. The fascists have snipers everywhere and there are many descriptions of young men of the town shouldering guns and going off to protect their homes and families. Planes fly overhead. A tennis team practices and an athlete is shot and killed. During this time, history reveals Helen's identity to herself and she falls deeply in love. Her lover's character is entirely plausible. At the end, he chooses to stay in Spain rather than return to Nazi Germany and he joins the Loyalist forces. If this plot isn't already overwhelmingly beautiful, exciting, and poignant, the story of how it came to be published is even more romantic. The novel was rejected by its first readers in 1937 and Rukeyser was advised to develop her poetry instead. The manuscript eventually languished in a misfiled folder in the Library of Congress, until it was recently discovered and published by the Feminist Press. The beginning of the novel, with its train setting, reminded me of Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy, in which another intelligent woman sits on a train, hurtling into an unknown future on the eve of war. Helen is far more independent and politically engaged, which makes her a more interesting witness. This book is highly recommended for anyone who, like me, is interested in 20th century European history, leftist movements, and literature written by women. I am grateful to Ms. Rukeyser for writing it and for the Library of Congress for preserving it, so that it could become discovered and read by people who will enjoy it as much as I did.

  • Troy
    2018-10-09 17:02

    Not much to say. It's a well written book about the Spanish Civil War, which is a war I can't stop reading about. Maybe it's because it's so close to us, and was such a radical attempt at a new way of living, and... even better, it worked for a very short time, and was crushed by such virulently evil forces. The forces that crushed the grand anarchist and communist experiments might as well have twirled their mustaches or worn something mengu inspired (like Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter). I mean, fuck the fact that the comrades burned beautiful churches (hell, the Black Metal dudes did that) and that they shot anyone suspected of being a fascist (I mean, what else are you going to do with a fascist?). It's a time for all of us to dream of better worlds; more equitable; more just; no exploitationno godsno bossesno mastersAnd on top of that endless possibilities for life and love, and I do mean love and who doesn't want that, right? Right?So that's what we have here. A bildungsroman. The story of a budding young woman; blossoming to political and sexual possibility at the same time. And unlike The Flamethrowers, the protagonist here is not some passive pretty face — she's a bad ass who, despite her bad hip, is willing to brave the bullets, brave death, brave war.

  • Elana Dykewomon
    2018-10-10 13:19

    Just finished Muriel Rukeyser's "Savage Coast," about the early days of the Spanish Civil War, the alternate Olympic games that were to be held in Barcelona (as a rebuke to the Olympics being staged in Germany in 1936). This is a great book, with a great intro detailing the intense sexism that kept it from being published in its time. Not an "easy" read – poetic, challenging, calling us back to witness. Rukeyser had a genius for telegraphing the fragmentary nature of experience, coupled with fresh, immediate observation, creating new wholes out of the tissues of night and sun-soaked gunfire. Thanks to The Feminist Press and Rowena Kennedy-Epstein for bringing this out. Advice to readers not familiar with the Spanish Civil War or Rukeyser's style: read the essay/memoir that starts on p 281, published in Esquire in 1974, for a window on the action of the novel.

  • Tuck
    2018-09-26 12:11

    young naive woman goes to spain for the alt olympic games, but turns out it also the start of the civil war. she meets a german man who also is going to compete in the games, obvious he is antifascist, she learns a lot in a very short time, about direct action, true democracy, horror of war. an interesting histoy too behind this novel, it was soundly rejected by publishers, they wanted rukeyser to do something more "womanly" less calling out the 1%ers and nazis. it didn't get published till 2013, and she never really did get to "finish" it. super novel of spanish civil war and good companion to others like hislop The Return and sansom Winter in Madrid

  • Rachel Pollock
    2018-10-01 14:15

    I find this book heartbreaking, because my ultimate feeling upon reading it is that I desperately wish her publisher had agreed to print it, and then hooked her up with an editor. It would have been an incredible novel that captured the zeitgeist of the Spanish Civil War, but instead, frankly, it really needs editorial input. Still a lot of beauty in it, and it's a cool artifact. But it could have been a brilliant classic of its time.

  • Whitney
    2018-10-08 09:16

    Dated in style but a fascinating look into the start of the Spanish Civil War.

  • Katherine
    2018-10-15 08:56

    *I feel rather guilty admitting it considering the book's subject matter, but I was bored for much of it. Here are passages I liked:“She lay in the lower sleeper, looking out level at the gray terraces, the gasps of blackness as tunnels enclosed the, the careful white masonry of bridges and underpasses” (8).“The compartment was a thin crate of heat, tranced by the sun” (17).“From all the third-class windows, heads developed” (18).“...glimpses of sea that had no color but the light it held” (20).“Secret, furious, the night grew” (76).“Her hand lifted in a sharp, beautiful gesture, denying everything, the words he had spoken to her, the world” (81).“She seemed to become more frail and fashionable as he piled on the horror” (81).“She stood up, puddling the coffee, pale with milk, before her” (83).“The English woman’s long face took on vertical marks of hopelessness” (85).“...all she wanted was to lie down, on grass, and look at the Lawrence book, and let the last day arrange itself somehow in her brain” (89).“‘I like you,’ said Helen. She finished the warm pale soda. ‘I like your attitude toward machine guns’” (109).“They said their good nights, and were in the corridor, in the night simplicity” (115).“A radio promulgation, night-manifesto. And the fierce country, blazed across the brain: urgent and cypressed, the granitic cliff, the shock of parent sea” (116).“Hoops of fatigue fell over them, holding them in place, increasing distances” (180).“...with a reaping gesture of his great length of arm” (208).“...where the black circle had stamped the ground around it with scorches” (208).“...the platform hardly showed, tided with listeners” (263).“The jaundiced light oiled the shine on patent leather hat, olive shoulders, bright yellow straps”(116).“She was proved in happiness, hearing hi, it confirmed her, it bound her to him also” (123).“, equipped with thorny guns” (126).

  • Book Batter
    2018-09-29 15:14

    For years, it lay forgotten in an unmarked and undated file in the Library of Congress. Hidden amongst a bewildering mass of papers - correspondence, half-finished drafts, notebooks, uncorrected proofs - Savage Coast, Muriel Rukeyser’s first and only novel, may never have been discovered if it wasn’t for the efforts of a doctoral student keen to bring some order to Rukeyser’s famously chaotic and often-overlooked work. But discovered it was, and the book was finally published by The Feminist Press of City of New York University in 2013, twenty-three years after the author's death.An autobiographical novel, Savage Coast charts Rukeyser’s experiences in Spain during the first days of the Spanish Civil War. The novel’s protagonist, Helen, finds herself on a train hurtling south from France down through Spain (along the Costa Brava, the ‘savage coast’ of the title) in July 1936. A writer, she has been tasked with covering the ‘People’s Olympiad’ for an English magazine. Due to be staged in Barcelona, the People’s Games were intended as a protest against the Summer Olympics in Berlin, an event which was being used by Hitler as a means to promote his policy of racial supremacy. Six thousand athletes from twenty-two countries had registered to participate in the anti-Nazi games, some of whom were travelling on the same train as Helen.More...

  • Paul Taylor
    2018-10-07 10:21

    A remarkably modern novel that should be far better known than it is. A worm's eye view of the start of the final dress rehearsal for the second world war. One's sympathies are drawn to the plucky underdogs of Catalonia but at this stage in the war the decisive contribution of German and Italian materiel, tactics and men was not evident. The rather jerky narrative captures the uncertainty and confusion at the very start of the conflict. The political complexities are only alluded to as cars with all kinds of acronyms painted on them whirl around Barcelona conducting drive by shootings. The cynical forces of realpolitik are all too plain to see with the English refusing to take other nationalities on their relief boat and the promised aid to the Republicans that never materialised.

  • Sinead Fitzgibbon
    2018-09-26 13:07

    For years, it lay forgotten in an unmarked and undated file in the Library of Congress. Hidden amongst a bewildering mass of papers - correspondence, half-finished drafts, notebooks, uncorrected proofs - Savage Coast, Muriel Rukeyser’s first and only novel, may never have been discovered if it wasn’t for the efforts of a doctoral student keen to bring some order to Rukeyser’s famously chaotic and often-overlooked work. But discovered it was, and the book was finally published by The Feminist Press of City of New York University in 2013, twenty-three years after the author's death.More...

  • Carol
    2018-09-22 12:04

    gripping story, feels like it is happening in real time. An opportunity to hear Rukeyser's voice when she was young involved in an event that shaped her life. Also the story of the editing and process to bring this manuscript into a book we have access to is fascinating. The only novel Rukeyser wrote.I highly recommend it.

  • Marian Evans
    2018-10-05 17:21

    This is my favorite book of 2013. It's a novel, a memoir, a poem, a film script, and it's amazing that it took 70 years to be published. if you enjoy books about the Spanish Civil War, this is for you. If you enjoy women's books about war, this is for you. If you love truly classy genre bending, find Savage Coast NOW!

  • John
    2018-10-19 15:14

    Five fists raised to what is in effect a sensory prose poem (or ode) to the author's political and sexual birth in the beginning days of the Spanish Civil war. Best to enjoy not as a novel. Definitely feels like a lost modernist classic rediscovered. Kudos to Kennedy-Epstein for sharing this with the world, and her fine contextual research.

  • Julia Prudhomme
    2018-09-27 16:59

    i really enjoyed getting into this novel, and then somewhere along the line i didn't want to continue with her. perhaps revisit this book at a later time....