Write to Read: Share Your Examples of Terrible Beauty


A beautiful painting of a horrible scene. Detail from Massacre of the Innocents, by Peter Paul Rubens, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“A terrible beauty is born.” So wrote W.B. Yeats in his poem Easter 1916. Terror and beauty seem like unnatural pairing, but a new book on The Recovery of Beauty explores whether great art can, or indeed should, engage with unethical, violent or dark subjects. What are your own favourite examples of beautiful writing about un-beautiful subjects?

From the way in which the beautiful lady in medieval romances causes pain and suffering to the knight who chases her, to the evocation of horrific war injuries found in the novels of Pat Barker, The Recovery of Beauty offers numerous examples of how literature often mixes the beautiful with the ugly. Our snap twitter poll seemed to agree that it is possible to produce beautiful literature out of the most unlovely of subject matter.

Share your favourite examples of beautiful writing about terrible things in the comments below, tweet us using the hashtag #TerribleBeauty, or message us on Facebook, and we’ll post the best to this blog next week.

To get inspiration, read an exclusive extract from the introduction to The Recovery of Beauty, or listen to one of the editors, David Fuller, on the beauty amid the violence of King Lear.


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