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Roy Campbell

(1901—1957) poet and writer


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(1901–1957)

South African poet.

Campbell was brought up in Durban, a boyhood lovingly described in The Mamba's Precipice (1953). He was sent to Oxford (1919) but considered that study interfered with poetry, reading, and writing. The Flaming Terrapin (1924), his poetic and spiritual manifesto, created a stir, but when Campbell returned to Natal and co-founded the magazine Voorslag, with William Plomer and Laurens Van der Post, he found his aspirations thwarted by his fellow countrymen. Returning to England in disgust, Campbell published The Wayzgoose (1928), a long poem satirizing the South African cultural scene.

In 1928 he moved to Provence, where the strenuous physical life suited his taste better than the London literary milieu, which he satirized in The Georgiad (1931). Adamastor (1930) and Poems (1930), which contain some of his finest lyrics, were followed by Flowering Reeds (1933). In 1933 Campbell moved to Spain, where his right-wing politics drew him to fight on Franco's side in the civil war. His poems Mithraic Emblems (1936) were coldly received by English liberals, thus provoking the immoderate outburst of Flowering Rifle (1939), which was virulently pro-Franco. During World War II Campbell served in the British army in Africa but was invalided out in 1944. From 1946 to 1949 he worked for the BBC.

In 1952 Campbell moved to Portugal. Some of his best works in this period were translations of French, Spanish, and Portuguese poetry. In 1951 his second volume of autobiography, Light on a Dark Horse, was published; like the first (Broken Record, 1934), it was characterized by Campbell's love for violent and dangerous physical activities and his enthusiasm for flamboyant anecdotes. In 1957 he was killed in a car accident in Portugal.

Subjects: Literature.


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