As Mae West almost said, keep a diary and someday it will keep ...

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As Mae West almost said, keep a diary and someday it will keep you alive

100 years later, the success one of literature’s greatest diaries would calm its writer’s fears

Jeremy Nicholas

When The Journal of a Disappointed Man was published in April 1919, a clamour of approval drowned out the occasional naysayer who didn’t know what to make of the book’s raw, harrowing tale. HG Wells hailed it as a “moving and remarkable book. It is a genuine diary.” But a successful literary career did not await its author.

The man behind the WNP Barbellion pseudonym died six months later – 100 years ago, on October 22 – at just 30 years old, uncertain if his words would survive the test of time.

Yet it has remained in print – described as “the greatest diary a man has written” by American novelist and critic Thomas Mallon in his survey of the great diarists, A Book of One’s Own; compared to Joyce, Kafka and the leading modernists of the 20th century; and generally considered a classic of the literary canon...

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