The Europe of Trusts


The Europe of Trusts contains three books which Susan Howe first published in the early 1980s: The Liberties, Pythagorean Silence, and Defenestration of Prague. These are the landmark books - following her volumes from the previous decade (Hinge Picture, Chanting at the Crystal Sea, Cabbage Gardens, and Secret History of the Dividing Line) - which established Howe as "one of America's foremost experimental writers" (Publisher's Weekly). "Her work," as Geoffrey O'Brien put it, "is a voyage of reconnaissance in ...
See more details below
$15.46 price
(Save 8%)$16.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (33) from $4.98   
  • New (13) from $8.98   
  • Used (20) from $4.98   
Sending request ...


The Europe of Trusts contains three books which Susan Howe first published in the early 1980s: The Liberties, Pythagorean Silence, and Defenestration of Prague. These are the landmark books - following her volumes from the previous decade (Hinge Picture, Chanting at the Crystal Sea, Cabbage Gardens, and Secret History of the Dividing Line) - which established Howe as "one of America's foremost experimental writers" (Publisher's Weekly). "Her work," as Geoffrey O'Brien put it, "is a voyage of reconnaissance in language, a sounding out of ancient hiding places, and it is a voyage full of risk. 'Words are the only clues we have,' she has said. 'What if they fail us?'"
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

A consummately resourceful poet.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811215077
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,460,166
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


For me there was no silence before armies. I was born in Boston Massachusetts on June 10th, 1937, to an Irish mother and an American father. My mother had come to Boston on a short visit two years earlier. My father had never been to Europe. She is a wit and he was a scholar. They met at a dinner party when her earring dropped into his soup.

By 1937 the Nazi dictatorship was well-established in Germany. All dissenting political parties had been liquidated and Concentration camps had already been set up to hold political prisoners. The Berlin-Rome axis was a year old. So was the Spanish Civil War. On April 25th Franco's Lufftwaffe pilots bombed the village of Guernica. That November Hitler and the leaders of his armed forces made secret plans to invade Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Russia.

In the summer of 1938 my mother and I were staying with my grandmother, uncle, aunt, great-aunts, cousins, and friends in Ireland, and I had just learned to walk, when Czechoslovakia was dismembered by Hitler, Ribbentrop, Mussolini, Chamberlin, and Daladier, during the Conference and Agreement at Munich. That October we sailed home on a ship crowded with refugees fleeing various countries in Europe.

When I was two the German army invaded Poland and World War II began in the West.

The fledgling Republic of Ireland distrusted England with good reason, and remained neutral during the struggle. But there was the Battle of the Atlantic to be won, so we couldn't cross the sea again until after 1945. That half of the family was temporarily cut off.

In Buffalo NewYork, where we lived at first, we seemed to be safe. We were there when my sister was born and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Now there were armies in the west called East.

American fathers marched off into the hot Chronicle of global struggle but mothers were left. Our law-professor father, a man of pure principles, quickly included violence in his principles, put on a soldier suit and disappeared with the others into the thick of the threat to the east called West.

B u f f a l o 12.7.41

(Late afternoon light.)
(Going to meet him in snow.)
(Comes through the hall door.)
The research of scholars, lawyers, investigators, judges Demands!

(With her arms around his neck whispers.)

Herod had all the little children murdered!

It is dark
The floor is ice

they stand on the edge of a hole singing—

In Rama
Rachel weeping for her children

to be comforted

because they are not.

Malice dominates the history of Power and Progress. History is the record of winners. Documents were written by the Masters. But fright is formed by what we see not by what they say.

From 1939 until 1946 in news photographs, day after day I saw signs of culture exploding into murder. Shots of children being herded into trucks by hideous helmeted conquerors—shots of children who were orphaned and lost—shots of the emaciated bodies of Jews dumped into mass graves on top of more emaciated bodies—nameless numberless men women and children, uprooted in a world almost demented. God had abandoned them to history's sovereign Necessity.

If to see is to have at a distance, I had so many dead Innocents distance was abolished. Substance broke loose from the domain of time and obedient intention. I became part of the ruin. In the blank skies over Europe I was Strife represented.

Things overlap in space and are hidden. Those black and white picture shots—moving or fixed—were a subversive generation. "The hawk, with his long claws / Pulled down the stones. / The dove, with her rough bill / Brought me them home."

Buffalo roam in herds
up the broad streets connected by boulevards

and fences

their eyes are ancient and a thousand years
too old

hear murder throng their muting

Old as time in the center of a room
doubt is spun

and measured

Throned wrath
I know your worth

a chain of parks encircles the city

Pain is nailed to the landscape in time. Bombs are seeds of
Science and the sun.

2,000 years ago the dictator Creon said to Antigone who
was the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta: "Go to the
dead and love them."

Life opens into conceptless perspectives. Language surrounds
During World War II my father's letters were a sign he was safe. A miniature photographic negative of his handwritten message was reproduced by the army and a microfilm copy forwarded to us. In the top left-hand corner someone always stamped PASSED BY EXAMINER.
This is my historical consciousness. I have no choice in it. In my poetry, time and again, questions of assigning the cause of history dictate the sound of what is thought.
Summary of fleeting summary
Pseudonym cast across empty

Peak proud heart

Majestic caparisoned cloud cumuli
East sweeps hewn flank

Scion on a ledge of Constitution
Wedged sequences of system

Causeway of faint famed city
Human ferocity

Dim mirror Naught formula

archaic hallucinatory laughter

Kneel to intellect in our work
Chaos cast cold intellect back

Poetry brings similitude and representation to configurations waiting from forever to be spoken. North Americans have tended to confuse human fate with their own salvation. In this I am North American. "We are coming Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more," sang the Union troops at Gettysburg.

I write to break out into perfect primeval Consent. I wish I could tenderly lift from the dark side of history, voices that are anonymous, slighted—inarticulate.

Excerpted from The Europe of Trusts by Susan Howe. Copyright © 1990 by Susan Howe. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)