A ‘New Life’ in More Ways Than One
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Published in: November-December 2010 issue.


A Great Unrecorded HistoryA Great Unrecorded History: A New Life
of E. M. Forster

by Wendy Moffat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
404 pages, $32.50


WAS E. M. FORSTER a coward? A case could be made. He was deferential to a domineering mother, fearing her censure of his gay-themed writing as well as the men he loved, regretting he was unable to become the “authoritative male” who might have lessened her depression after the early death of his father. Short of falsely declaring himself to be a conscientious objector, he did everything he could to avoid conscription into the British Army during World War I until a medical board declared him unfit to fight. A draft of Maurice, his overtly homosexual novel, was finished in 1914. For the rest of his life Forster circulated copies of the manuscript among friends and fellow writers but turned a deaf ear to their pleas that he publish the book. It did not appear until 1971, a year after his death. And then there is the famous statement in his 1938 essay, “What I Believe”: “I hate the idea of dying for a cause, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.”

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