Other literary forms
Although Rebecca West excelled in a variety of literary genres, she first came to prominence as a book reviewer, a role that she continued throughout her life. From her first critique, which appeared in The Freewoman in 1911, to her last, which appeared in the London Sunday Telegraph on October 10, 1982, West wrote almost one thousand reviews. Several of these appear in the collection The Young Rebecca (1982). Her first book, Henry James (1916), which is an evaluation of Henry James’s contributions to literature, was considered an audacious project for a young woman. This fearless honesty and willingness to write bluntly about sacrosanct persons and ideas marked West’s entire career. After that bold debut, West published several other notable works of literary criticism. The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews (1928), a collection of essays from the New York Herald Tribune and the New Statesman, introduced one of West’s recurring themes: the necessity of art in human life. The Court and the Castle (1957), based on lectures she delivered at Yale University, describes the role of the arts in government and society from the time of William Shakespeare to Franz Kafka.
West was also a prominent journalist and social commentator. Her coverage of the Nuremberg Trials (the trials of Nazi war criminals following World War II) appeared in A Train of Powder (1955). One of her most famous books, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (1941), a combination travelogue, history, and sociopolitical commentary on the Balkans, is still considered essential reading for those who wish to understand the complexities of that area.