Spender is at his best and is most comfortable in writing autobiography. His life consistently was a search for meaning, as is apparent in his choice of the poem with which his autobiography begins. Its first two lines, “To break out of the chaos of my darkness/ Into a lucid day, is all my will,” describe the essence of what World Within World is about and, indeed, of what Spender’s creative life was about. Spender went through life seeking enlightenment, questing after answers to eternal questions.
World Within World deals with a number of major themes, which Spender enumerates in his introduction: love, poetry, politics, the life of literature, childhood, travel, and the development of his attitudes toward moral problems. These concerns are played out before a backdrop of a world between two major wars. The heart of the book deals with the years from 1928 to 1939, crucial years in world history, particularly in the history of the world of which Spender was a part.
During those years, Spender’s personal conflicts were mirrored on a large scale by the conflicts brought about by the rise of fascism in Germany, Austria, and Italy and by the spread of communism throughout Eastern Europe. Spender, between 1920 and 1937, experienced new cultures—notably German, Austrian, and Spanish—and wrote about them in such works as Vienna (1935) and his drama, Trial of a Judge (pr. 1938).
At the same...
(The entire section is 461 words.)