Review: ‘Ted Hughes – The Unauthorised Life’ by Jonathan Bate

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“Ted Hughes – The Unauthorised Life” is a brilliant account of the life of a very interesting British poet from the twentieth century. Jonathan Bate’s biography tells the story of a young working class boy from Yorkshire who gets accepted to Cambridge University where he meets the ingenious Sylvia Plath, a young American poet with equally brilliant poetic skills as Ted Hughes himself.

The two poets become an inseparable couple for seven years, and they even had two children. But the mixture of two brilliant young people with outstanding poetic ambitions, two children and large household is doomed to end in disaster. And it does. Ted Hughes commits fatal adultery, and Sylvia Plath commits suicide. The myth of a modern marriage of legendary poets is founded. Furthermore, by the worst of luck, Ted Hughes is to meet yet another woman who does exactly the same and commits suicide in love sickness due to Ted Hughes’s unfaithfulness.

Not many men are indirectly or directly the cause of the death of two women. By now, every feminist must be in highest alert. Still Jonathan Bate seems to explain Ted Hughes’s destiny not only as a result of his carelessness but also as result of the combination of bad luck and Hughes’s own immaturity. According to the biography, there was also something in Ted Hughes’s character and appearance that seduced vulnerable and gifted women. But Ted Hughes’s guilt is not totally dismissed by Bate.

When one reads Bate’s biography about Ted Hughes, one cannot escape the thought that he actually was a big pig, although a very gifted and charming one. If one wants to read a book about glamorous bastard then read Jonathan Bate’s seducing biography on Ted Hughes’s life.

However, Bate’s book is also a biography about a man who develops into maturity and in some sense settle down in the end and reconciles himself with his strange destiny and enormous poetic skill. In short, “Ted Hughes – An Unauthorised Life” is a highly recommendable book for poetic snoopers and seekers of explanations of life’s twisted roads.

 

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