Deborah Baker

Julienne Schaer
2016
Deborah
Baker

The Last Englishman

Love, War and the End of Empire

To be published by Graywolf Press

The grant jury:  An immersive book about a cast of characters who stood at the edge of history, written by a clever excavator, elegant wordsmith, and structural craftsman who is adept across cultures. Through their lives and loves, Baker illuminates the world on the cusp of war, chaos, and vast social change. Baker’s novelistic pages have an ease and elegance that make them a pleasure to read. The prodigious volume of her research is evident, but the text wears it lightly.

 

From The Last Englishman

By the end of his first year as viceroy a face-to-face meeting with Gandhi had become pressing. First, however, he had to parse those devilish questions of protocol by which he set great store.

Should Gandhi be allowed to sign the Viceroy’s guest book?

Could his office insist upon decent dress?

Clearly Gandhi could not be received in the circular marble chamber of the throne room. The throne room of Buckingham Palace was modest by comparison with that of the Viceroy’s, the largest in the world.…

Gandhi of course would have to make the first move. A formal application for an interview would be required. And Linlithgow wouldn’t reply right off. He was absolutely not going to make it easy for him.

 

The narrative of The Last Englishman pivots between London and Calcutta, from the 1930s to the war and Independence, as English and Indian writers, artists, and adventurers struggled to define their political allegiances and most deeply held beliefs. At the center of these interlocking circles are the elder brothers of W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender, that era’s best-known English poets, and the woman they both loved. Her choice would determine where their wartime loyalties would lie: with England and its unraveling Empire, or an independent India. 

Deborah Baker’s books include Making a Farm: The Life of Robert Bly; In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding; A Blue Hand: The Beats in India; and The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism. In Extremis was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 1994. The Convert was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award in Non-Fiction. She was a Guggenheim Fellow and a 2008-2009 Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis C. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at The New York Public Library. Baker divides her time between Brooklyn and Goa.