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Elaine Feinstein

(1930- )

FEINSTEIN, ELAINE (1930– ), English novelist, poet, and translator. Born in Bootle, Feinstein was educated at Cam-bridge University. She has worked as an editor for the Cambridge University Press and lectured in English at Bishop's Stortford Training College and the University of Essex until 1970. She is now a full-time writer. Feinstein published her first novel, The Circle, in 1970. She also translated The Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva (1971) and Three Russian Poets: Margarita Aliger, Yunna Moritz, Bella Akhmadulina, (1978). As an editor she chose the Selected Poems of John Clare (1968) and, with Fay Weldon, New Stories 4 (1979). She has also published volumes of short stories and plays, Breath (1975) and Echoes (1980). The Holocaust is central to Children of the Rose (1975) and The Border (1984). She also wrote a book on the blues singer Bessie Smith (1985).

Her prodigious literary output includes volumes of poetry such as The Magic Apple Tree (1971), At The Edge (1972) and The Celebrants and Other Poems (1973). Feinstein is regarded as an important English novelist. She has described her early fiction as an "extension" of her poetry as her novels combine the poetic with a larger historical canvas. Her fiction, therefore, has ranged through European history and, at the same time, has retained a poetic use of language and myth. With remarkable economy, several of Feinstein's novels, Children of the Rose (1975), The Ecstasy of Dr. Miriam Garner (1976), The Shadow Master (1978), and The Border (1984), incorporate the violence, fanaticism, and pseudoapocalyptic character of modern history. The ever-present themes of exile and betrayal in Feinstein's novels are given a wider historical dimension which shapes the lives of her cosmopolitan characters. The Survivors (1982), an autobiographical novel, has an exclusively English setting and uses the compressed form of a conventional family saga. Feinstein is also a biographer of note, having written lives of Pushkin (1998), Ted Hughes (2001), and Lawrence's Women (1993), about the love life of D.H. Lawrence.

Feinstein consciously writes in a Central European literary tradition. She is the first post-war English-Jewish novelist to successfully eschew the parochial concerns and forms of expression of the Anglo-Jewish novel and has located her sense of Jewishness in a wider European context. The Border is a representative example of Feinstein's ability to express in an exciting love story a multifarious vision of the world made up of history and autobiography, poetry and myth, literature and science. In this way, Feinstein has managed to broaden the concerns of the Anglo-Jewish novel and develop a lasting poetic voice in a distinct and imaginative manner.

Sources:[Bryan Cheyette]

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