EM Forster: A New Life, By Wendy Moffat

How to dip a nib in the well of desire

After E M Forster died in 1970, Christopher Isherwood gained access to his friend's journals and manuscripts.

Recognising a dominant theme, he delivered an injunction to future biographers: "Unless you start with the fact that he was homosexual, nothing's any good at all." In this excellent book, Wendy Moffat does as Isherwood suggested, and interprets Forster's life and work through the prism of his sexual yearnings and anxieties.

It is an approach that might have seemed reductive in the hands of another writer, but Moffat's account is admirably sensitive. Sifting Forster's fiction for autobiographical clues, she argues persuasively that her subject's "frustrated desires rushed up like a wellspring, fuelling his urge to write".

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