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The Habit of Art

A Play

Alan Bennett

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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ISBN10: 0865479445
ISBN13: 9780865479449

Trade Paperback

112 Pages


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Benjamin Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W.H. Auden. During this imagined meeting, their first in twenty-five years, they are observed and interrupted by, among others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station.

Alan Bennett's new play is as much about the theater as it is about poetry or music. It looks at the unsettling desires of two difficult men, and at the ethics of biography. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion's spent: ultimately, on the habit of art.


Praise for The Habit of Art

"A multi-levelled work that deals with sex, death, creativity, biography and much else besides . . . beautifully written . . . deeply moving."—Michael the, The Guardian

"Bennett the maestro returns with a multi-layered masterpiece . . . hilariously provocative . . . mixes hard-won wisdom about such matters as the meaning of collaboration, the dubious value of biography . . . and flurries of delirious silliness."—Paul Taylor, The Independent

"Deft, amusing, and so intelligently and generously crafted that it makes you feel clever just watching it . . . The Habit of Art is a richly thought-provoking piece about many things, including artistic creation, the vulgarity of biography, sexuality, friendship, the bubble of reputation, but it also has an intriguingly autobiographical feel at times. What sort of artist have I been? Will anything survive?"—Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times (London)

"A gloriously sustained, constantly shifting piece of irony. Irony doesn't, of course, preclude pathos . . . Despite all its sardonic surroundings, the central encounter—which touches on broken friendships, Thomas Mann, coming out of the closet, and teh grim necessity of continuing to write—still registers as moving and true."—Susanna Clapp, The Observer (London)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Part One
Afternoon. A large rehearsal room in the National Theatre. Already set up is the interior of the Brewhouse, Christ Church, Oxford, lodgings into which W. H. Auden had moved in 1972. There are a couple of easy chairs, a cluttered kitchen...