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Return to Larkinland (BBC Four Tues 9 August 2022)

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Philip Larkin, one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century, is revisited by author and critic AN Wilson. Larkin will soon be honoured with a spot in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.

In his biography, Wilson follows Larkin’s life from his early years in Coventry through his college years at Oxford and his later years working in university libraries while penning some of the most well-known and infamous poems ever written in the English language.

Wilson, who got to know Larkin in his later years, recalls special interactions with the poet, and this closeness to the subject aids in Wilson’s portrayal of a complex individual with a torturous private life. Wilson addresses the accusations of racism, bigotry, and misogyny that surfaced after the release of Larkin’s Selected Letters and authorised biography and have dogged his posthumous reputation in this open examination of Larkin’s life.

Wilson comes to the conclusion that Larkin’s poems have endured rather than his flaws. Wilson contends that Larkin spoke for Britain between the 1950s and 1970s more than any other author, and features readings of his work by Larkin himself, highlighting the greatness of The Whitsun Weddings, Arundel Tomb, Church Going, and Aubade.

Airdate: Tuesday 9 August 2022 at 10.00pm on BBC Four.