By Grand Central Station I Sat down and Wept
coup de foudre
a novel by Elizabeth Smart, first published in 1945, but hardly noticed until it was reissued in 1966 (in paper-back) when it was hailed by the critic Brigid Brophy as one of the half dozen masterpieces of poetic prose in the world. It is the story of a coup de foudre between the narrator and a married man (based on the poet George Barker). With its flashing metaphors, hypnotic cadences, and liturgical rhythm the form and theme unite in emotional intensity. More an extended prose poem than a novel, it has been criticized for its lyrical excess. In one of the most striking sections Smart contrasts the ‘Song of Songs’ from the Old Testament with day-to-day frustrations as the lovers attempt to cross state borders in the 1930s to find a place where adultery is not an illegal act. This hymn to sexual love is Elizabeth Smart's most memorable work.