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Lucifer Before Sunrise

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World War II finds Phillip and his family struggling to maintain the farm. Phillip's relationship with his eldest son, Billy, suffers from his heavy reliance on the young man. Resentment pushes Billy to join the RAF and a knowledge of the dangers involved adds to Phillip's guilt over his behaviour. World War II finds Phillip and his family struggling to maintain the farm. Phillip's relationship with his eldest son, Billy, suffers from his heavy reliance on the young man. Resentment pushes Billy to join the RAF and a knowledge of the dangers involved adds to Phillip's guilt over his behaviour.


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World War II finds Phillip and his family struggling to maintain the farm. Phillip's relationship with his eldest son, Billy, suffers from his heavy reliance on the young man. Resentment pushes Billy to join the RAF and a knowledge of the dangers involved adds to Phillip's guilt over his behaviour. World War II finds Phillip and his family struggling to maintain the farm. Phillip's relationship with his eldest son, Billy, suffers from his heavy reliance on the young man. Resentment pushes Billy to join the RAF and a knowledge of the dangers involved adds to Phillip's guilt over his behaviour.

36 review for Lucifer Before Sunrise

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Christensen

    “With the alert glances of hens in grass when daddy-long-legs are hatching…” His struggles with his farmhands, who know no other way Nor the spiritual fight against maggot and fly; the war against entropy. As Hitler the sensitive artist had to change masks to survive In a world of iron titans, Phillip wills the soil to thrive. Gold, taken for commodity and not as token of exchange, Will bring England to ruin. But seen on the astral plane, Hitler becomes Lucifer/Venus, the intangible star of morning; Smal “With the alert glances of hens in grass when daddy-long-legs are hatching…” His struggles with his farmhands, who know no other way Nor the spiritual fight against maggot and fly; the war against entropy. As Hitler the sensitive artist had to change masks to survive In a world of iron titans, Phillip wills the soil to thrive. Gold, taken for commodity and not as token of exchange, Will bring England to ruin. But seen on the astral plane, Hitler becomes Lucifer/Venus, the intangible star of morning; Small men made ‘big’ from the war still too blind to see its dawning.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Dixon

    For the fourteenth and penultimate volume of his novel sequence ‘A Chronicle of Ancient Sunrise,’ Henry Williamson gives us a title which reveals the importance of the mythical Prince of Darkness in what I have dubbed the Lucifer Quartet (the last four novels in the sequence). In earlier volumes of the Quartet, Lucifer and Christ are presented as siblings: the eldest being too hasty in wanting to renew the world immediately; the younger, being content with the slower work of compassion. For HW’s For the fourteenth and penultimate volume of his novel sequence ‘A Chronicle of Ancient Sunrise,’ Henry Williamson gives us a title which reveals the importance of the mythical Prince of Darkness in what I have dubbed the Lucifer Quartet (the last four novels in the sequence). In earlier volumes of the Quartet, Lucifer and Christ are presented as siblings: the eldest being too hasty in wanting to renew the world immediately; the younger, being content with the slower work of compassion. For HW’s protagonist Phillip Maddison, Hitler is Lucifer: But is he the Light Bringer or the Prince of Darkness? This mythic, archetypal struggle, with HW/ Phillip attempting to hold the tension of the opposites, will underlie a book which on the surface is about politics, farming in wartime, emotional turmoil and the creative torment of a great, if flawed, writer. The context for the struggle is set out powerfully in a passage describing the disturbed behaviour of one of the farm labourers Phillip employs, known as the Jackdaw, who is “psychically a damaged man.” But he is not the only one: like Phillip, the Jackdaw was gassed during the Great War. When he hears the Jackdaw ranting, “tears of impotence in his eyes and with puny cries of rage,” Phillip recognises in “those frenzied monologues” the sounds that sometimes come from his own “jittery self”; but they are also the sounds, “though with deeper penetration and cutting power,” that he hears broadcast on the radio from Germany: in other words, the speeches of Hitler, injured in the same conflict. Attempting to justify his early enthusiasm for Hitler, HW frequently invoked the memory of the Christmas Truce as a symbol of the friendship between ordinary soldiers of Britain and Germany which should have laid the foundations for a new world order after the Great War. HW persisted in believing that Hitler was a man of peace, pushed into war by the Moneyed Interest (“the illusions of a counting-house materialism”); but also betrayed by his own flawed psychology (as indeed, we might think, was HW himself who, nevertheless, in a diary entry for October 1940, finally denounces Hitler as “bloody wicked”). On a visit to Germany in 1935, Phillip had been impressed by the restoration of health and prosperity to a new generation; and he saw similar improvements to the youth from the London slums who had been evacuated to the countryside because of the Blitz: thus the modern Lucifer was the “precipitating agency” of an “incipient community spirit” in Britain, reflected also in the fact that, after a decade of economic depression when the only people who were calling for the necessary action (like Phillip’s political hero Hereward Birkin, for whom read Oswald Mosley) were ignored, the powers-that-be were finally doing something about the state of the nation: “The Government at last controlled Money.” Phillip finds that he must push himself physically in order “to lift the spirit clear of the entanglements of fear.” But even as he wrestles with the challenge of improving the intractable Bad Lands (“symbolic of urbanised mankind”) with their “maimed woods” – a battle which Phillip sees as a microcosm of the European struggle – he realises that he is neglecting his true vocation as the chronicler of “the miseries and splendours” of his time: He must write about the things he has known “before they are lost in death’s dateless night.” And his “low mood” gives way to a “strange elation” after the administration of two large whiskies: “His mind was floating free: he understood every point of view, especially those directly opposed to his own. If only he were free to write his novels, he would bring clarity to occluded minds”; and indeed, faith, hope and clarity become his watchwords. In fact, it is through his attempts to interpret a dream that Phillip gains some startling clarity, which brings together the central themes of the book. Phillip has been accidentally shot by soldiers stationed on the farm; and finds himself in hospital next to a captured Luftwaffe pilot, who is dying because he has refused a blood transfusion, fearing the pollution of his Aryan blood. In a semi-delirious state Phillip has what Jung would call a Big Dream, full of powerful, archetypal imagery which Phillip remembers as a “surrealistic film-sequence”: a dream in which a wood-spirit wearing “the wrong clothes” is sacrificed and ritually burnt by a group of fishermen. Separated from the uniform with which it had become, in the language of the dream, intagliated (which Phillip interprets as “a black piercing of the mind by thorns”), the spirit in the fire is now serenely holding a photograph of an unknown woman. Following Jung, we could interpret this female image as that of the anima, the inner woman in the soul of every man, which men tend to project upon the actual women in their lives, making grown-up relationships difficult. This inner woman as love-object is personified in mythology as Venus, shining in the heavens as the Star of Love; but the planet also has a demonic masculine side, the Light Bringer (Lucifer), whom Phillip identifies with Hitler. Perhaps prompted by the death of the German pilot (“dying for a Führer who could do no wrong”), Phillip wonders if the dream, freed from “the flow of material time”, is foretelling the death of Hitler. It is at this point that Phillip sows the seeds of what will prove to be a life-changing realisation: of the necessity for him to embrace the Way of Artistic Detachment. He has already stated his conviction that “the man of vision and imaginative powers” must work upon the world indirectly, through his art; and not directly, as a man of action “however leaderless and unhappy the times.” He has also long believed that Hitler’s true nature is indeed that of an artist; and one who, like D.H. Lawrence and Phillip himself, suffered an “estranged childhood”. Hitler’s response to this estrangement was conditioned by what later happened to him and his country (“the desperate nihilism of the Western Front”) for he built an alter ego which dared the impossible (“striving to create unity in a fragmented continent”); but whose ultimate achievement was summed up by the “ideas of loyalty” which led to the German pilot’s death. What created such loyalty was the strange mixture of mythical being and political animal in Hitler’s “estranged” soul: “Impelled by an up-welling sense of injustice; at other times glowing with the dream-quality of Venus – the ambisexual planet which after the dark night becomes Lucifer.” The cluster of images in this Dream Chapter is poetically dense: Phillip describes intagliated as “a blackthorn word” but the thorns are also those that pierced the head of Christ, whose followers were fishermen and who died on the day sacred to Venus: Christ, who “attempted to purify human minds of the decadent materialism of his age” and who, in medieval heresy, was Lucifer’s younger brother. The warring brothers are the archetypes of the struggle for the soul of Europe and the struggle between Phillip and the Eternal Woman (Venus), as his marriage to an actual flesh-and-blood woman falls apart. And there is a disturbing contrast between the grief he feels for the death of the German pilot (“I wept on and off all the forenoon”) and the immobility he experiences when he later hears that his eldest son, who had joined the RAF against his father’s wishes, has been killed in action in the last week of the war; an event presaged by a dream. His personal grief is submerged as he listens to the Love’s Death music of Wagner broadcast from Berlin, interrupted by the announcement of Hitler’s death; and he watches through the night until he sees Lucifer, the Morning Star, “shining with a more intense glow.” This moment mirrors one the previous Christmas, when he had watched Venus appear as “a small bright point of light” besides the greater light of the moon. The fact that this planet, the Star of Love, is also the Morning Star, represents for Phillip a duality, not a dualism: that the Prince of Darkness “is also the Morning Star of hope leading up the sun to shine on the living” He describes himself as “haunted” since his youth by the ambivalence of this image and writes that as he grew up “the dual function of the myth became plain to me as my own nature. And now the ancient truth has never before been so plain to me.” This “ancient truth” is now crystallised in him as the acceptance of the “historical truth” that men of “spiritual power” must become “artists in detachment”. Only such an artist can shine his solar light upon the world without seeing shadows. He would see no shadow cast by “the Jew on the Cross upon the Place of Skulls” – Christ on Calvary on the Day of Venus – but equally he would see no shadow cast by the Crucified One “upon the smoking corpse lying in the shattered garden of the Berlin Chancery.” The image of the Jew on the Cross casting no shadow on Hitler’s burnt body – or at least no shadow seen by the Artist in Detachment – is difficult to interpret. But if it suggests equivalence between Golgotha and the Berlin Chancery, between the deaths of Christ (who takes upon Himself the sins of the world) and Lucifer/Hitler (“scapegoat of so much negative living, so much active frustration”), it is foreshadowed by equally uncomfortable thoughts of equivalence (la balance) between the horrors committed by the Axis Powers and the actions of the Allies. Given the ambivalence of his feelings about Hitler, Phillip experiences the Führer’s death as a reprieve: This lets me out. But the reprieve is short-lived: Haunted by images of his son’s horrific death in an exploding bomber over the Alps in a war caused by “hate of the old for the new, of decadence for resurgence”; and confronted by his wife’s decision to leave him, Phillip determines to commit suicide by wading into the sea at ebb-tide; but ends up rescuing a drowning man; and is finally able to weep for his son, as he did for the German pilot. His act of selflessness also finally brings him the reprieve he sought: He can now begin to live his “true life, which is to build, to create beauty”; and as he keeps vigil upon a hill above the ocean where he nearly drowned, he sees emerge from the sea the Morning Star which he links with “the regeneration of Western man” and with Hitler, “who had shone to millions of his countrymen as the Lightbringer during the ‘twenties, those years of degradation and defeat.” But he has also seen Hitler as the pure Wagnerian hero Siegfried, who “had, through arrogance, betrayed himself, and all about him.” The mythic dilemma remains: Is Lucifer the Prince of Darkness or the Prince in Darkness? But the task of the Artist in Detachment is not to answer such questions, but to explore them in all their ramifications, when his very being is “crying out to express all that had been felt and known and suffered and regretted and forgiven in all the years of his life in the only way by which he could express himself: through the Imagination – the written word.” He will begin to write an apology for his life – in fifteen volumes.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    This was an interesting book, but I felt that it was not quite what Williamson planned. There were sections in the book where he describes the book he actually felt should be written. I think it was getting harder for him by this point in the series.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Russell Burnett

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mogdavid

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark G

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  9. 5 out of 5

    Frank Peters

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mick

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lynda Chapman

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colin Beardwell

  14. 4 out of 5

    Geicodave

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mr P Michell

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kay Halley

  17. 4 out of 5

    Simon K

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ken Johnson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lee Watkins

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zack

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Bishop

  22. 4 out of 5

    Boaz Dror

  23. 5 out of 5

    Simon

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jon Winks

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  27. 5 out of 5

    Neil Grant

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hyo-Won

  29. 5 out of 5

    BookDB

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sergay

  31. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  32. 5 out of 5

    John Anthony

  33. 4 out of 5

    John Morgan

  34. 4 out of 5

    Mike Smith

  35. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  36. 5 out of 5

    W Nelson

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