Throughout its first fifty years, The New York Review of Books has asked many questions: What is Art? How Did it Happen? Tennis Anyone? How Dead is Arnold Schoenberg? Aimez-Vous Rousseau? Is There a Marxist in the House? How Smelly Was the Palladian Villa? Do Fish Have Nostrils?
The Irish writer and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who died on August 30 in Dublin, was for the last forty years both a contributor to The New York Review of Books and one of its frequent subjects. In 1973, Stephen Spender, reviewing books of poetry by Thom Gunn, W.S. Merwin, James Merrill, James Schuyler, Philip Levine, Kenneth Koch, and Heaney, wrote:
It is difficult to know what to say about Seamus Heaney except that he is very good, very Irish, very honest. His poems are, I suppose, autobiographical and are direct reports on experience. Nothing, on the level of the experience, seems invented. At the same time, he is intoxicated with language, so that the event, almost cinematically described, is dense with the texture of the words.
Heaney went on to publish a number of poems, a review, and an introduction and excerpts from his acclaimed Beowulf translation in the Review. Fifteen of his books were reviewed in our pages, and we present several of the pieces below, in his memory.
In honor of the birthday of Czesław Miłosz (born in Lithuania on June 30, 1911) we present a selection of his work from the Review’s archives. Miłosz defected from Poland to the West in 1951, living in France at first and moving in 1960 to the United States. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
On February 5, The New York Review celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an evening at Town Hall in New York City. Before a packed crowd of 1,400 people, editor Robert Silvers introduced John Banville, Mary Beard, Michael Chabon, Mark Danner, Joan Didion, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Darryl Pinckney, who read from their past work in the Review and spoke about their relationship with the magazine and its influence on their careers. We present here some highlights from the event, along with a selection of photos.