Speak Silence is in the main a book about literature, and yet much more. It is about literature and life. Idris Parry's approach is personal; he treats books like other experienced phenomena, as clues, suggestions, introduction to thought. Literary criticism, like literature itself, is for him an important effort to find a way through country not visited before. His essays grip the reader in the way that the best short stories do. They are written 'boldly outwards for the cultivated reader, not nervously inward for the profession', as Bernard Crick commented in the Guardian.
Parry is drawn by curiosity about small details - buttons and pebbles, asides and casual remarks. But then he shows how the imagination leads knowledge beyond experience. This impulse, as Parry says, led Goethe's Faust to make his pact with Mephistopheles; the existence of understanding beyond our knowledge and beyond the grasp of our language.
Most of the writers he discusses are well-known Germans and Austrians who are still little more than names to many English readers; Goethe and Kleist, Buchner, Thomas Mann, Rilke and Kafka, Hesse, Hofmannsthal, Canetti and many others. Parry also approaches Laurence Sterne and Nathaniel West, he talks about the real and fake Munchausen, and he writes with enthusiasm about the Anglo-Welsh author Margaid Evans. These pieces retain in print the conversational contact of talk. Many began as broadcasts on BBC Radio 3.
Of the twenty-eight essays in Speak Silence, five are new and the rest are taken from Animals of Silence (1972) and Hand to Mouth (1981).
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Book Description Carcanet Press Ltd., 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0856357901