Sacks on Auden


in Art, Books and literature, History, Psychology, Writing

Staying at Oxford after my degree and often revisiting it in the late 1950s, I occasionally glimpsed W.H. Auden around town… He invited me to visit, and I would sometimes go to his apartment on St. Mark’s Place for tea. This was a very good time to see him, because by four o’clock he had finished the day’s work but had not yet started the evening’s drinking. He was a very heavy drinker, although he was at pains to say that he was not an alcoholic but a drunk. I once asked him what the difference was, and he said, “An alcoholic has a personality change after a drink or two, but a drunk can drink as much as he wants. I’m a drunk.” He certainly drank a great deal; at dinner, either at his place or someone else’s, he would leave the meal at 9:30pm, taking all the bottles on the table with him. But however much he drank, he was up and at work by six the next morning. (Orlan Fox, the friend who introduced us, called him the least lazy man he ever met.)

Sacks, Oliver. On the Move: A Life. 2015. p. 196 (hardcover)

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. August 31, 2016 at 5:10 pm

“At the end of the week-it was Saturday, April 15, 1972- Orlan and I ran Wystan [H. Auden] to the airport. We arrived about three hours early, because Wystan was obsessively punctual and had an absolute horror of missing trains or planes. (He once told me of a recurrent dream of his: he was speeding to catch a train, in a state of extreme agitation; he felt his life, everything, depended on catching it. Obstacles arose, one after the other, reducing him to a screaming panic. And then, suddenly, he realized that it was too late, that he had missed the train, and that it didn’t matter in the least. At this point, there would come over him a sense of release amounting to bliss, and he would ejaculate and wake up with a smile on his face.)”

p. 198-9

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