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Unformatted text preview: A biography sheds light on a great author E.M . FORSTER By Nicola Beauman (Knopf, 404 pages, $40) Nicola Beauman's sensitive and insightful new biography of E.M . Forster contains a photograph of the great English novelist and his mother, Lily, which sums up the power struggle that shaped Forster's life. Taken in the late 1920s, the picture catches the middle-aged writer at a time when his masterpieces, Howards End and A Passage to India, had won universal praise. Yet there is not a trace of self-confidence in Forster's rather homely face or unprepossessing body. Like a nervous schoolboy, he clasps his hands before him while tilting his head diffidently towards his mother. Meanwhile, the stout old woman glowers past the camera with Churchillian ferocity. The story behind the picture is steeped in paradox. Forster , an only child, both needed and loved his mother, and resented her lifelong attempts to control him. ``She has cramped and warped my genius, hindered my career, blocked and buggered up my house,' he told a friend, while adding immediately that Lily had also ``provided a sort of rich subsoil where I have been able to rest and grow.'' Beauman, a London-based author who has also written a biography of English writer Lady Cynthia Asquith, handles such Forsterian contradictions with commendable delicacy. She shows how the writer used the restrictions of his private life--he was not only dominated by his mother but also a homosexual at a time when that proclivity was punishable by imprisonment--to inspire the...
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- Spring '04