has been called "the world's number one woman writer," "the greatest
woman since Elizabeth I," and "a strong contender for woman of
As a young woman she was a fiery suffragette and
socialist; by her thirties, a world-famous journalist and political
analyst as well as a distinguished novelist.
During her long, prolific career she moved and
worked among the twentieth-century's most important thinkers and
writers. West's works include the magisterial history and travelogue
of Yugoslavia Black Lamb and Grey Falcon; studies
of the Nuremburg trials and World War II British traitors, in
A Train of Powder and The Meaning of Treason;
the modernist World War I masterpiece The Return of the Soldier;
and the autobiographical Aubrey family novels-a trilogy subtitled
"a saga of the century"-The Fountain Overflows, This
Real Night, and Cousin Rosamund.
As studies of modernist and feminist writers have
flourished since the 1970s, Rebecca West's reputation has grown.
Since her death twenty years ago, two West biographies have been
published as well as a collection of her letters. Yet the eclectic
nature of West's vast canon has made her difficult to classify,
and her works have not been read and studied to the extent they
deserve. Her countless essays and reviews-written for major newspapers
and journals like The London Times, The New Yorker,
and The New Republic as well as for women's magazines
like The Ladies' Home Journal and Mademoiselle-have
not been collected, and most of her books are out of print. Many
contemporary literature and history students never encounter her
work in the classroom, and few readers know her name or the titles
of her works.