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Writer W. H. Auden (1907-1973)


Date taken: 1956


Photograph: Alfred Eisenstaedt


Life Images

http://images.google.com/hosted/life/71d4c1eabcb8c6ee.html - broken link
















free speech        UK

























write        UK












writer        USA




- June 25, 2020










genre writer        USA












short story writer        USA










crime writer        USA










cookbook writer        UK










biographer        UK / USA














memoirist        USA










writing        UK














women's writing        USA






crime writing        UK






original writing        UK






New Grub Street


refers to the London street that,

in the age of Samuel Johnson

and Laurence Sterne (...),

was synonymous with hack writing.


By the 1890s,

Grub Street no longer existed,

though hack writing,

of course, never goes away,

with timeless imperatives.






American prose        USA






playwright        UK






poet        USA






author        UK / USA


















best-selling author        USA





authorship        UK






Martina Cole > Britain's bestselling author        UK








pen name        USA






literary establishment        UK






The Paris Review, American literary magazine        USA






woman of letters        USA






literary greats > The Times obituaries





literary feuds        UK






literary fraud        UK






literary agent        USA






literary agent > Pat Kavanagh








literary legend > Ray Bradbury        USA






Ben Sonnenberg Jr.,

founder of literary journal Grand Street        USA        1936-2010






pioneering feminist author > Amber Reeves
























satirical novelist        USA






diarist        UK











pulp writer        UK






mystery novelist / writer > Donald E. Westlake        USA






UK > science fiction writer / author > Arthur C. Clarke    1917-2008










online writer        UK






ghost writer        UK






travel writer > Patrick Leigh Fermor        UK






philosophical and revolutionary writers











thinkers and revolutionaries





thinker        UK






storyteller        USA






story        USA






USA > the Beats: beat generation        UK / USA























A draft of the prologue of “Invisible Man.”


Photograph: Ralph Ellison Papers,

Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

© The Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust.



Surreal Encounters in Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’

Breaking with the dominant literary styles among Black writers at the time,

the author expanded the limits of realism to create a world that was,

and remains, all too familiar.


June 3, 2021
























manuscript        USA


























draft        USA




















type        UK










typewriter        UK / USA






















Key workers:

writers at their typewriters - in pictures        UK        2011


Since Mark Twain became the first author

to submit a typed manuscript

with Life on the Mississippi in 1883,

authors have been devoted to their machines.


As manufacture of typewriters

comes to a close,

we look back on some

of the iconic images of creators

at their keyboard











scribe        UK


















NYC > Harlem Renaissance        USA

















literary competition





book prize










be shortlisted















USA > The Pulitzer Prizes        UK

Honoring Excellence in Journalism and the Arts








Samuel Johnson prize        UK






Booktrust teenage prize        UK



















Man Booker Prize        USA






Man Booker Prize        USA






Man Booker Prize        UK






The Booker prize        UK

















Booker prize        USA        2012






Booker prize        2011        UK / USA








The Booker shortlist        UK


















the Blooker Prize        UK






the Turner prize        UK






PEN/Faulkner Award        USA






win the award





win the Booker        UK






the Big Gay Read        UK






the Whitbread Book of the Year        UK






the Romantic Novelists Association prize        UK






the Carnegie medal        UK








the Samuel Johnson non-fiction prize        UK








National Book Award        USA








Book Awards        USA
















translator        UK












Corpus of news articles


Arts > Books > Writers, Awards




Salman Rushdie:

'Fiction saved my life'

Symbol, victim, blasphemer, target
– Salman Rushdie, it seems,
is anything people need him to be.
As his new novel is published,
the writer talks to Boyd Tonkin


Friday, 11 April 2008

The Independent

In Salman Rushdie's tenth novel, the great Mughal emperor Akbar conjures up his favourite wife by the sheer force of imagination alone: "The creation of real life from a dream was a superhuman act, usurping the prerogative of the gods." Non-existent, but still solid enough to breed fiery resentment from her rival queens, Jodha in The Enchantress of Florence can stand for all the heretical coups and stunts of story-telling magic that have peppered Rushdie's fiction for the past 30 years. Yet this grand master of the power of fantasy has suffered as its slave as well. More than any other writer alive, he has found himself transformed into a character – ogre, joker, beast and, just occasionally, hero – in other people's scripts and stories.

"Sometimes," he says, his voice tinged more by sadness than anger, "I think that when people become famous, there's a public perception that they are not human beings any more. They don't have feelings; they don't get hurt; you can act and say as you like about them." They become "things, not people" – a status and a plight that, outside global politics and showbiz, Rushdie has sampled at a length and depth unparalleled in modern times.

Even if you try hard to treat the novelist as a professional author, not a symbol, a slogan or a cause, the buzz of fantasy kicks in. My particular Rushdie delusion endows him with the Jodha-like ability to materialise out of thin air. At a Booker Prize dinner in the mid-1990s, with the Iranian fatwa that followed The Satanic Verses in 1989 still a clear and present danger to his life, the shifty-eyed ox in a tux seated next to me promptly vanished as the first course arrived. The next time I turned my head, the target of several deadly serious assassination plots (and Ayatollah Khomeini's judgement, remember, was suspended but not rescinded by Tehran in 1998) had slipped in to replace his ever-watchful bodyguard. Not long ago, I went to dinner at a friend's, looked away to grab a crisp – and, abracadabra, there he suddenly sat.

Now, I push through an open door at his agent's eerily silent offices, wander into a seemingly deserted room – and find him standing alone, near a shelf of books by another quizzically subversive spellbinder, and one of his true heroes: Italo Calvino.

Everyone, fan or foe, invokes their own imaginary Rushdie. We dream him up, and he duly takes shape: as blaspheming apostate for many still-outraged Muslims; as cocky subcontinental pseud for old-school British racists; as martyr to free speech for liberal literati. With the announcement of his knighthood, last June, this parade of straw men swelled to a seething carnival of prejudice and projection. From one corner, the pious haters swung into action: the parliament of Pakistan passed a motion against the honour as an insult to Islam. From another, the gossip-sheet haters seized on rumours of an impending divorce to renew their attritional campaign of "attacks on my physical appearance, as if I've ever invested anything in how beautiful I am". From yet another, the kneejerk-leftist haters matched them all in bile: The Guardian ran a defamatory rant from a Cambridge English don that grossly misrepresented his books, his politics and his ideas with a recklessness that would shame a GCSE-level duffer.

"Truthfully, I don't get it," says this hard-working 60-year-old writer, clad in a writer's comfy sweater, mulling over his burdensome double life as multipurpose scapegoat. "I just don't understand it. I think I've led a serious creative life. All that I've tried to do for over 30 years is to be the best writer that I know how to be... It's as if people don't see that in some way, and that's distressing."

The flesh-and-blood author has never wanted to make a mystery of himself. Even in the perilous depths of the fatwa, he proved easier to contact than many shy sages with no price upon their heads. Now, he is about to launch the fourth season of the World Voices festival in New York: a crowd-pulling array of global authors that Rushdie has energetically fronted and boosted from the start. With his friends Umberto Eco and Mario Vargas Llosa, he will re-stage the "Three Musketeers" gig that proved so popular in the 1990s. And, for a month every year, he makes time to teach modern fiction (including such colleagues and contemporaries as Angela Carter, Kazuo Ishiguro and Hanif Kureishi) at Emory University in Georgia: "There's something very enjoyable about sitting in a room with 16 intelligent young people, talking about a book."

So ordinary life, and ordinary talk, carries on regardless. The Indian-origin family who run a gas station he uses in New York were "thrilled and proud" at the knighthood. Most people have responded "very sweetly" to it, he says: they understand "that real life is not the same thing as what's in the newspapers. If you know that, it's a way of dealing with what appears in print." Still, he admits: "I don't get over it. It hurts me and, like anybody else who gets hurt, you have to try to heal."

So is work a good way to heal? "Yes. Last year was a horrible year for me in many ways because of the end of my marriage" – his fourth, to the model, actress and TV presenter Padma Lakshmi – "and I don't know how I got inside this book, really." Hard on the heels of the knighthood furore, reports of their split brought another media shot of the sour cocktail of mockery and malice that had greeted the start of the couple's relationship. "It wasn't straightforward" to plunge into the therapeutic toil of fiction, he says, "considering the enormous amount of upheaval. But I do think it saved my life, this book. It reminded me of who I've always wanted to be, and who I think I am. And it was a matter of enormous pride to be able to do it and, at the end, to think, 'Not so bad.'"

The Enchantress of Florence returns Rushdie to the roots of his craft, and his gift. From Midnight's Children in 1981 to Shalimar the Clown in 2005, his strongest fiction has explored and enacted the interchange of history, memory and myth – as comedy, as tragedy, and often as a brand of fantasy that dances with, and through, recorded facts. The new novel sticks to two connected sectors of the past: the early 1500s in Florence, and the later 16th century in the new (but soon to be abandoned) Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sikri. So India and Italy embrace in a tale of two cities.

The book teases out the strands that bind two types of Renaissance, two types of humanism, and two types of magic. Via Rushdie's narrative alchemy, one woman, the "hidden princess" Qara Köz, knits the entire plot in her westward drift from court to court across (and beyond) the known world. Driven by the Hitchcock-style V C "McGuffin" of a blond stranger in Akbar's city and his tall tales of a genealogy that weds East and West, the story unspools irresistibly like a roll of brightly coloured ribbon, full of the virtues of "lightness and swiftness" that Calvino taught, and Rushdie admires. "I just had the most good time writing it," the author purrs, "and it's slightly given me the appetite for doing it again."

"For me," he says, "one of the most interesting discoveries of this book was how similar the two worlds were. In my starting-point idea," which drew on the Indian princess who plays a leading role in Ariosto's Renaissance epic poem Orlando Furioso, "I thought, 'Here are these two worlds that have very little contact with each other, and yet are both at a kind of peak.' But the more I found out about it, the more I found that, actually, they were surprisingly alike: in the interest in magic, in the remarkable hedonism of both worlds – the very open debauchery of both cultures." "Florence was everywhere and everywhere was Florence," thinks the Tuscan scamp turned Ottoman warlord Argalia, one of the novel's self-seeking bridge-builders and go-betweens who bind East and West.

Rushdie says that "how the world adds up, and how this part connects to that part, is something I've been trying to explore for a really long time now. The Satanic Verses is a novel about migrations, but in the last three or four books, I've been trying to write about how over here connects to over there." He adds: "I'm not trying to say they're identical, but human nature is identical. It's interesting to see that human beings were everywhere alike... I'm not a relativist. I do think that there is such a thing as human nature, and that the things that we have in common are perhaps greater than the things that divide us."

So the arch-Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli (whom Rushdie commends as "a profound philosopher of republican humanism") seeks for the "hidden truths" about society and politics behind the official smokescreen of doctrine and dignity. Two generations later, in Fatehpur Sikri, the Emperor Akbar slips slowly away from mainstream Islam to harbour dreams of a synthetic, humanistic faith with "man at the centre of things, not God".

All of this actually happened. I have visited the riotously carved pavilion in the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri ("a most enchanted place," says Rushdie), where the questing, tolerant Akbar welcomed spokesmen for different creeds to debate the nature of God, and man, in a mood of mutual goodwill and respect. For Rushdie, "I myself don't think that Akbar ever really moved outside Islam... However much he experimented with all these ideas, I don't think he ever ceased to be a believing Muslim. But he had this pantheistic idea: that, in the end, all religions are one."

The author stresses that he deals in historical fiction, not topical allegory or coded polemic. "When I'm writing a book, sentence by sentence, I'm not thinking theoretically. I'm just trying to work out the story from inside the characters I've got." His novel may feature a prince who hopes that "in Paradise, the words 'worship' and 'argument' mean the same thing", but he has no particular message for believers, or unbelievers, today. "My impulse was not didactic. It was the novelist's impulse: to bring things to life in an interesting way. I don't like books that seem to want to teach me things. Which is not to say that one doesn't learn from books – but you do your own learning in your own way."

Rushdie did plenty of new learning for The Enchantress of Florence ("I've never done so much research in my life") and he slips in a seven-page bibliography. During a rough passage, history offered both an escape and a homecoming. "It felt like returning to a use of my mind, a place where I hadn't been for a long time," says the history graduate of King's College, Cambridge. He remembers that a favourite tutor there, Arthur Hibbert, told him that "you should not write history until you can hear the people speak. I've always thought that was quite a good piece of advice for fiction, too. For me, this book was that act: trying to understand the people well enough so that I could hear them speak."

These princes, whores, scholars and warriors, Rushdie insists, live in their own times, on their own terms. He worries that the gossip-hounds invariably treat his fiction as "disguised autobiography". In this yarn of a glamorous incomer from India who seduces Italy, many will seek for echoes of his former wife, once a prime-time host on Italian television. But Qara Köz cannot be Padma Lakshmi: "No – she's 400 years older!" More seriously: "The reason why none of these characters can be equated to modern characters is that their processes of thought are not modern. They don't make choices or understand the world in the way that people in our day would. They are genuinely, I hope, of their time."

Like people in our time, though, they voyage across the world in search of fortune, passion or adventure. Born in Bombay to a Kashmiri Muslim family; a schoolboy at Rugby, a student at Cambridge; the 1980s superstar of a fresh, border-hopping brand of cosmopolitan English-language fiction; then, after the fatwa, the fugitive proof of the downside of fame before he came to rest in Manhattan: Rushdie could hardly dodge migration and cultural mingling as a recurrent motif in his work.

Yet, he thinks, the art of passing frontiers feels harder now. "Because of the kind of life I've had, of being bounced around the planet quite a lot... I've had constantly to be aware of likeness and unlikeness. And so it becomes a subject for me." However, compared to 20 years ago, "the world has changed in that people are more troubled" about human flux and flow. It used to be "easier to imagine mass migration as a positive force, a liberating force, both for the migrant and the culture into which the migrant came... Now, I think there are big question marks around that idea because people are scared. The element of fear has arrived in a way that wasn't there before, because of the violence of the age."

In such a climate, the pleasures of story-telling rather than punditry beckon. "Because of all the things that happened to me, there are people who think of me primarily as some kind of political animal. I began to feel it was getting in the way of people being able to read my books as books should be read." So Rushdie won't be drawn far into the electoral drama unfolding in his adopted home. "If I had a vote, I'd probably vote for Obama. But one of the things I've been doing in America is: keeping out of it. It struck me that if an American writer living in England began to start sounding off about who we should vote for, people wouldn't take kindly to it. There was that long period when Roth was living here. If Philip had started sounding off about whether you should vote for Margaret Thatcher, it wouldn't have gone down well."

Back in his Renaissance, East and West, the power-plays of the past bewitch him now, however fantastic they feel. "A lot of the stuff people might think is most obviously made up is true," he says of The Enchantress of Florence, where we meet not only Akbar and Machiavelli, but a bloodier icon. "The Ottoman campaign against Dracula actually took place. Dracula's decision to impale 20,000 people on stakes to put off the Ottoman army really happened. That's not magic realism, although it sounds like it... It comes from the memoirs of a Serbian janissary who took part in that campaign. There it is, gruesomely described in great detail. I couldn't believe my luck when Dracula showed up."

In the minds of his diehard antagonists, Rushdie often figures as a near-demonic blend of Dracula and the mythical (if not historical) Machiavelli. Yet he writes and acts much more like his benevolent but baffled Akbar, showing through the story-teller's unarmed might that "human nature, not divine will, was the great force that moved history"; and hoping that "discord, difference, disobedience" might turn out after all to be "wellsprings of the good".

Though enemies will continue to sharpen their stakes for him, the writer has found his way back into a not-so-secret garden of fictional delights. With The Enchantress of Florence, "there was an unexpected joy in the writing for me. I loved doing it, and I felt that there is some sense of release into literature in the book. It was a lot of fun, at a time that wasn't fun."

'The Enchantress of Florence' is published by Jonathan Cape (£18.99). Salman Rushdie appears in International PEN's Free the Word! festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1, on Sunday at 7.30pm

Salman Rushdie: 'Fiction saved my life',
11 April 2008,






Harry Potter First Edition Auctioned


October 26, 2007

Filed at 11:27 a.m. ET

The New York Times



LONDON (AP) -- A copy of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel sold at auction Thursday for almost $41,000.

The copy of the hardback first edition of ''Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,'' published in 1997 and signed ''Joanne Rowling'' on the back of the title page, was sold to an anonymous private bidder for $40,326 at Christie's auction house.

At a London auction in May, a copy of ''Philosopher's Stone'' inscribed with a personal dedication to the owner sold for more than $55,000, including buyer's premium.

The book was published by Bloomsbury PLC with an initial print run of about 500 copies. Many were purchased by libraries, making copies in good condition extremely rare.

It was published in the United States in 1998 as ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' and the boy wizard soon became a publishing phenomenon.

The seventh and final installment in Harry's adventures, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,'' was published in July. The seven books have sold nearly 400 million copies and have been translated into 64 languages.

Harry Potter First Edition Auctioned, NYT, 26.10.2007,
Books-Potter-Auction.html - broken link






J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character


October 20, 2007
Filed at 12:37 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.

After reading briefly from the final book, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,'' she took questions from audience members.

She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds ''true love.''

''Dumbledore is gay,'' the author responded to gasps and applause.

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. ''Falling in love can blind us to an extent,'' Rowling said of Dumbledore's feelings, adding that Dumbledore was ''horribly, terribly let down.''

Dumbledore's love, she observed, was his ''great tragedy.''

''Oh, my god,'' Rowling concluded with a laugh, ''the fan fiction.''

Potter readers on fan sites and elsewhere on the Internet have speculated on the sexuality of Dumbledore, noting that he has no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past. And explicit scenes with Dumbledore already have appeared in fan fiction.

Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, ''Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,'' she spotted a reference in the script to a girl who once was of interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed to director David Yates, revealing the truth about her character.

Rowling, finishing a brief ''Open Book Tour'' of the United States, her first tour here since 2000, also said that she regarded her Potter books as a ''prolonged argument for tolerance'' and urged her fans to ''question authority.''

Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, likely referring to Christian groups that have alleged the books promote witchcraft. Her news about Dumbledore, she said, will give them one more reason.

    J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character, NYT, 20.10.2007,






J.K. Rowling Gives Rare U.S. Reading


October 16, 2007
Filed at 3:55 a.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling made a rare U.S. appearance, reading at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood in front of scores of wand-clutching would-be wizards and witches.

Seated on a gold throne with plush red cushions, Rowling read Monday from the seventh and final of her novels on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.''

She then took a dozen preselected questions from the dressed-up and dazzled kids and teens.

To accommodate a crushing demand for tickets for her first American appearance since 2000, Rowling's American publisher sent a ''sorting hat'' like those used to divide students into houses in the novels to 40 randomly selected Los Angeles schools. Forty students from each school were then selected from the hat.

Rowling said the gimmick was meant to avoid the sort of madness she faced in her last U.S. appearance seven years ago.

''Things had gotten a little unmanageable signing-wise in the terms of the numbers who were turning up,'' she said, ''but I really missed being able to interact directly with readers.''

All 1,600 students received a signed copy of ''Deathly Hallows.''

Rowling, a former schoolteacher, took the stage to a thundering, shrieking ovation, then said: ''It wasn't like this when I was a teacher. If it had been, I might never have left.''

When inevitably asked what she might be writing next, Rowling said only that it would not be another supernatural epic.

''I think probably I've done my fantasy,'' she said. ''I think because Harry's world was so large and detailed and I've known it so well and I've lived in it for 17 years, it would be incredibly difficult to go out and create another world.''

The reading was part of a weeklong visit by Rowling to the states known as the ''Open Book Tour.''

She also makes stops in New Orleans on Thursday and at New York's Carnegie Hall on Friday.

    J.K. Rowling Gives Rare U.S. Reading, NYT, 16.10.2007,






Doris Lessing

Wins Nobel Prize in Literature


October 11, 2007
The New York Times


Doris Lessing, the Persian-born, Rhodesian-raised and London-residing novelist whose deeply autobiographical writing has swept across continents and reflects her engagement with the social and political issues of her time, today won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.” The award comes with an honorarium of 10 million Swedish crown, about $1.6 million.

Ms. Lessing, who turns 88 later this month, never finished high school and largely educated herself through her voracious reading. She was born in 1919 to British parents in what is now Iran, raised in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and currently resides in London. She has written dozens of books of fiction, as well as plays, non-fiction and two volumes of her autobiography. She is the 11th woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature.

Ms. Lessing learned of the news from a group of reporters camped on her doorstep as she returned from visiting her son in the hospital. “I was a bit surprised because I had forgotten about it actually,” she said. “My name has been on the short list for such a long time.”

With the sound of a phone ringing persistently from inside her house, Ms. Lessing said that on second thought, she was not as surprised, “because this has been going on for something like 40 years,” referring to previous times she has been on the short list for the Nobel. “Either they were going to give it to me sometime before I popped off or not at all.”

Stout, sharp and a bit hard of hearing, Ms. Lessing excused herself after a few moments to go inside. “Now I’m going to go in to answer my telephone,” she said. “I swear I’m going upstairs to find some suitable sentences which I will be using from now on.”

Although Ms. Lessing is passionate about social and political issues, she is unlikely to be as controversial as the previous two winners, Orhan Pamuk of Turkey and Harold Pinter of Britain, whose views on current political situations led commentators to suspect that the Swedish Academy was choosing its winners in part for nonliterary reasons.

Ms. Lessing’s strongest legacy may be that she inspired a generation of feminists with her breakthrough novel, “The Golden Notebook.” In its citation, the Swedish Academy said: “The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th century view of the male-female relationship.”

Ms. Lessing wrote candidly about the inner lives of women and rejected the notion that they should abandon their own lives to marriage and children. “The Golden Notebook,” published in 1962, tracked the story of Anna Wulf, a woman who wanted to live freely and was in some ways Ms. Lessing’s alter-ego.

Because she frankly depicted female anger and aggression, she was attacked as “unfeminine.” In response, Ms. Lessing wrote: “Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise.”

Although she has been held up as an early feminist icon, Ms. Lessing later denied that she herself was a feminist, earning the ire of some British critics and academics.

Clare Hanson, professor of 20th century literature at the University of Southampton in Britain and a keynote speaker at the second international Doris Lessing Conference this past July, said: “She’s been ahead of her time, prescient and thoughtful, immensely wide-ranging.”

Ms. Lessing debuted with the novel “The Grass is Singing” in 1950, chronicling the relationship between a white farmer’s wife and her black servant. In her earliest work, Ms. Lessing drew upon her childhood experiences in colonial Rhodesia to write about the clash of white and African cultures and racial injustice.

Because of her outspoken views, the governments of both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa declared her a “prohibited alien” in 1956.

Ms. Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in 1919 in what was then known as Persia (now Iran). Her father was a bank clerk and her mother was trained as a nurse. Lured by the promise of farming riches, the family moved to Rhodesia, where Ms. Lessing had what she has described as a “painful” childhood.

She left home when she was 15. In 1937 she moved to Salisbury (now Harare) in Southern Rhodesia, where she took jobs as a telephone operator and nursemaid. At 19, she married and had two children. A few years later, she felt trapped, and abandoned her family. She later married Gottfried Lessing, a central member of the Left Book Club, a left wing organization, and they had a son together.

Ms. Lessing, who briefly joined the Communist Party, later repudiated Marxist theory and was criticized for doing so by some British academics.

She divorced Mr. Lessing and she and her young son moved to London, where she began her literary career in earnest. When “The Golden Notebook” was first published in the United States, Ms. Lessing was still unknown. Robert Gottlieb, then her editor at Simon & Schuster and later at Knopf, said that it garnered “extremely interesting reviews” but sold only 6,000 copies. “But they were the right 6,000 copies,” Mr. Gottlieb said by telephone from his home in New York. “The people who read it were galvanized by it and it made her a famous writer in America.”

Speaking from Frankfurt during the annual international book fair, Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, which has published Ms. Lessing in the U.S. and the United Kingdom for the last 20 years, said that “for women and for literature, Doris Lessing is a mother to us all.”

Ms. Lessing’s other novels include “The Good Terrorist,” “Martha Quest,” and “Love Again.” Her latest novel is “The Cleft,” published by HarperCollins in July.

In a review of “Under My Skin,” the first volume of Ms. Lessing’s autobiography, Janet Burroway, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said: “Mrs. Lessing is a writer for whom the idea that ‘the personal is the political’ is neither sterile nor strident; for her, it is an integrated vision.”

On her doorstep, Ms. Lessing said she was still writing, “but with difficulty because I have so little time,” referring to the regular visits she is making to the hospital to visit her son.


Motoko Rich reported from Frankfurt

and Sarah Lyall from London.

Doris Lessing Wins Nobel Prize in Literature, NYT, 11.10.2007,






Harry Potter Author

Talks About Ending


July 26, 2007
Filed at 10:43 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- Less than a week after the release of the final Harry Potter book, author J.K. Rowling is giving hints about its conclusion.

Before publication, Rowling pleaded for secrecy about the ending of ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.'' But in an interview broadcast Thursday on NBC's ''Today'' show and in one published Thursday in USA Today, she discussed Harry's fate.


''I'm very proud of the fact that as we went into this book, many, many readers believed it was a real possibility that Harry would die. That's what I was aiming for,'' she said on NBC.

In the book, Voldemort meets his end and Harry lives. But Rowling said Harry's survival was not always a certainty.

''In the early days, everything was up for grabs,'' she told USA Today. ''But early on I knew I wanted Harry to believe he was walking toward his death, but would survive.''

The last volume of Rowling's fantasy series, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,'' was released Saturday to international fanfare as millions read to find out whether Harry lived or died. More than 10 million copies sold over the weekend.

In a prerelease interview with The Associated Press, Rowling acknowledged that she had no control over discussions about the book once it went on sale. But she said that she hoped readers would finish the book to find out what happens, rather than to peek at the ending.

''It's like someone coming to dinner, just opening the fridge and eating pudding, while you're standing there still working on the starter. It's not on,'' she said.

She also told the AP that after finishing the last book, she ''felt terrible for a week.''

''It was like a bereavement, even though I was pleased with the book. And then after a week that cloud lifted and I felt quite lighthearted, quite liberated,'' she said.

''It was this amazing cathartic moment -- the end of 17 years' work,'' she told NBC.

When asked if she felt like she had to say goodbye to Harry, she said, ''Yes and no. He'll always be a presence in my life, really.''

She acknowledged that the final Potter installment leaves some loose ends.

''It would have been humanly impossible to answer every single question that comes up,'' she told NBC. ''Because, I'm dealing with a level of obsession in some of my fans that will not rest until they know the middle names of Harry's great, great grandparents.''

Rowling, whose seven Potter books have sold more than 335 million copies worldwide, said she plans to take time off to be with her family and will continue writing. She told USA Today she has two writing projects -- one for children and one for adults.

But whether she will write about her young wizard again, she said: ''I think I've kind of done the wizarding world. ... I have done my Harry Potter.''

Harry Potter Author Talks About Ending, NYT, 26.7.2007,





Harry Potter

and the man who conjured up

Rowling's millions

As the last Hogwarts book appears,
the author's multi-millionaire agent
will stay in the shadows


Sunday July 15, 2007
David Smith
The Observer

When midnight strikes on Saturday, there will be no missing the star of the show. JK Rowling, the world's most successful author, will be the centre of attention for 1,700 children at London's Natural History Museum as she signs copies of the seventh and final Harry Potter adventure.

Throughout the canny construction of 'Brand Potter' - books, films, video games, and now even stamps - one figure has been ever present, like a shadow glimpsed in the cloisters of Hogwarts school.

This enigmatic but utterly crucial influence is Christopher Little, literary agent, fierce protector of Rowling and, thanks to the boy wizard, now a millionaire many times over.

Little has masterminded Rowling's career, from the moment he spotted the potential of her first manuscript to this week's publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which guarantees him yet another jackpot. Amazon, the online retailer, has already sold a record 1.8 million advance copies.

Rowling's publisher, Bloomsbury, held a ballot for the launch at the Natural History Museum, which drew applications from 90,000 children. The first 500 names out of the hat will hear Rowling read from the new book at midnight - webcast live around the world - while a further 1,200 will receive signed copies. Simultaneously, 279 branches of Waterstone's will open their doors, and there will be numerous other launch parties at independent bookshops up and down the country. This week the Royal Mail is issuing a commemorative set of Harry Potter stamps.

Little, a 65-year-old grandfather, has been content to remain behind the scenes, rarely speaking in public and seldom photographed. But when he first signed up Rowling, he reportedly struck a deal under his usual terms: 15 per cent of gross earnings for the UK market and 20 per cent for merchandising rights, for film, for the US market and for translation deals. With the author's fortune now standing at more than £540m, Little's return has to be estimated as at least £50m.

'He was the luckiest agent ever - when something like that falls in your lap it is luck, but he made the most of it,' said Ed Victor, a leading literary agent. 'He has run the brand admirably. He had to build up an organisation to defend and promote and advance his author's rights and it's all been done very tastefully. He's a charming and affable fellow, but made of steel underneath.'

The son of a coroner who served as a First World War fighter pilot, Little grew up in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, and gained five O-levels at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, only to leave during the sixth form to join his uncle's textile business in 1958. The fledgling entrepreneur had impressed his headteacher, EJ Baggaley, who wrote: 'My impression is that he is well suited for a business career - sales management, for instance.'

He spent most of the Sixties and Seventies in the shipping industry in Hong Kong before returning to London to set up a recruitment consultancy called City Boys. His switch to the literary world happened by accident in 1979. A schoolfriend and fellow Hong Kong trader, Philip Nicholson, had written a thriller and was seeking representation. Little agreed to take him on and the book, Man on Fire, was published under the pseudonym AJ Quinnell. It went on to sell 7.5 million copies worldwide and become a Hollywood film.

In his only press interview, in 2003, Little recalled: 'The literary agency was really a hobby which started through an accident. I was helping an old friend in his writing career. I had been running as a full-time business for about six years when Harry Potter arrived.'

The agency, run in 'cramped' and 'near-Dickensian' offices in Fulham, south-west London, was cash-strapped until touched by Potter's magic wand. Literary folklore has it that Rowling, then a penniless 29-year-old single mother, walked into a public library in Edinburgh, looked up a list of literary agents and settled on the name Christopher Little because it sounded like a character from a children's book.

Bryony Evens, his office manager at the time, has said that it went straight into the reject basket because 'Christopher felt that children's books did not make money'. But its unusual black binding caught her eye, prompting her to read the synopsis and show it to Little. He recalled: 'I wrote back to JK Rowling within four days of receiving the manuscript. I thought there was something really special there, although we could never have guessed what would happen to it.' He managed to sell it to Bloomsbury for £2,500, but later reaped huge rewards from international rights and has won a reputation as a brilliant deal-maker who puts Rowling first.

According to those who know him, the 6ft 3in Little, divorced with two sons, is unchanged by his wealth and a breed apart from the flamboyant agents and literati who frequent West End restaurants. But he reportedly spent £250,000 on his 60th birthday party at the Chelsea Physic Garden and has admitted: 'I do love sailing, but I rent the boats when I want them - it does save a lot of hassle.'

Ian Chapman, chief executive of Simon & Schuster and a friend of Little for 20 years, said: 'He's very Yorkshire, very northern, very honest and ... still the same simple fellow he's always been.'




The Deathly Hallows: a sneak preview In a trailer for the forthcoming ITV documentary, A Year in the Life... J K Rowling, the camera lingers long enough on a printed manuscript of the novel, dated 23 October 2006, to make the opening visible to the eagle eyed. It reads:

'Chapter One. The Dark Lord Ascending. The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite still, wands pointing at each other's chests: then, recognising each other, they stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and set off, side by side, in the same direction.

"News?", asked the taller of the two.

"The best," replied Snape.'




Harry in numbers


5 seconds between each pre-order on Amazon website - 1.8 million in total.

279 branches of the book chain Waterstone's holding launch parties at the stroke of midnight on Saturday.

2,000 people expected in the queue at Waterstone's on Piccadilly, London.

24 hours and 1 minute: running time for the audio edition.

90 countries in which the book is being published.

7/4 odds from Ladbrokes on Harry Potter committing suicide at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Harry Potter and the man who conjured up Rowling's millions,





Iran Cleric:

Rushdie Fatwa Still Stands


June 22, 2007
Filed at 11:18 a.m. ET
The New York Times


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An high-level Iranian cleric said Friday that the religious edict calling for the killing of Salman Rushdie cannot be revoked, and he warned Britain was defying the Islamic world by granting the author knighthood.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami reminded worshippers of the 1989 fatwa during a sermon at Tehran University, aired live on state radio. Thousands of worshippers chanted ''Death to the English.''

Khatami does not hold a government position but has the influential post of delivering the sermon during Friday prayers once a month in the Iranian capital. He did not directly call for the fatwa to be carried out.

''Awarding him means confronting 1.5 billion Muslims around the world,'' Khatami said. ''In Islamic Iran, the revolutionary fatwa ... is still alive and cannot be changed.''

Then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa in 1989, calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie because his book ''The Satanic Verses'' was deemed insulting to Islam. Rushdie was forced into hiding for a decade, and the edict deeply damaged Britain's relations with Iran. In 1998, the Iranian government sought to patch up ties by declaring that it would not support the fatwa but that it could not be rescinded.

Queen Elizabeth II's decision to knight Rushdie drew a complaint from the Iranian government and protests around the Muslim world.

About 2,000 people rallied in several Pakistani cities on Friday, calling for Rushdie to be killed and for a boycott of trade with Britain.

A leader of Pakistan's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party compared Rushdie's award to the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published last year in a Danish newspaper, which provoked protests and rioting in Muslim countries.

''Earlier they had published cartoons of our Prophet, and now they have given an award to someone who deserves to be killed,'' Abdul Ghafoor Hayderi told a crowd of about 1,000 people in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.

Pakistan is a close ally of the United States and Britain in the war on terror, but it has condemned Rushdie's knighthood.

In India's Muslim-majority Kashmir region, a strike over Rushdie's honor closed most shops, offices and schools in the summer capital, Srinagar.

Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din, head of Kashmir's Islamic court, said Rushdie was ''liable to be killed for rendering the gravest injury to the sentiments of the Muslims across the world.''

Britain has defended its decision to honor Rushdie, one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century. His 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for ''Midnight's Children'' in 1981.

Muslims angered by Britain's decision protested in London on Friday.

''Rushdie is a hate figure across the Muslim world because of his insults to Islam,'' said Anjem Choudray, protest organizer. ''This honor will have ramifications here and across the world.''

The award, announced Saturday, was among the Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honors list, which is decided on by independent committees who vet nominations from the public and government.

Some analysts have expressed surprise his award was approved.

''There is an impression they really didn't consider the potential reaction,'' said Rosemary Hollis, director of research at London's Chatham House think tank. ''But there is a sense that showing too much sensitivity is to kowtow to radicals.''


Associated Press writers David Stringer in London

and Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India,

contributed to this story.

    Iran Cleric: Rushdie Fatwa Still Stands, NYT, 22.6.2007,






Secret of Horror Writer's

Lineage Broken


March 17, 2007
Filed at 1:58 p.m. ET
The New York Times


PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) -- Joe Hill knew it was only a matter of time before one of the publishing industry's hottest little secrets became common knowledge. He just wished he could have kept it under wraps a bit longer.

But when Hill's fantasy-tinged thriller, ''Heart-Shaped Box,'' came out last month, it was inevitable that his thoroughbred blood lines as a writer of horror and the supernatural would be out there for all to see.

After 10 years of writing short stories and an unpublished novel under his pen name, Hill knows that the world is now viewing him through a different prism -- as the older son of Stephen King.

Hill, 34, took on his secret identity to test his writing skills and marketability without having to trade on the family name.

''I really wanted to allow myself to rise and fall on my own merits,'' he said over breakfast in this coastal city. ''One of the good things about it was that it let me make my mistakes in private.''

The moniker he chose did not come out of the blue. He is legally Joseph Hillstrom King, named for the labor organizer whose 1915 execution for murder in Utah inspired the song, ''Joe Hill,'' an anthem of the labor movement. His parents, who came of age during the 1960s, ''were both pretty feisty liberals and looked at Joe Hill as a heroic figure,'' he said.

''Heart-Shaped Box,'' a title drawn from a song by the rock group Nirvana, is a fast-paced tale of another man with dual identities. Judas Coyne, born Justin Cowzynski, is an over-the- hill heavy metal rocker with a strange hobby: amassing ghoulish artifacts.

When Coyne learns that a suit purportedly haunted by a ghost is up for grabs on an online auction site, he can't resist adding it to his creepy collection. Things turn ugly fast after Coyne learns that the suit's occupant is a spooky spiritualist bent on vengeance following the death of his stepdaughter.

The book has drawn good reviews, with The New York Times' Janet Maslin calling it ''a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror'' that is ''so visually intense that its energy never flags.'' And with its cinematic, and bloody, ending, Warner Bros. snapped up movie rights six months before the book hit the market.

As excitement percolated about ''Heart-Shaped Box,'' so, too, did lingering questions about its author. Inklings about Hill's family background started appearing in online message boards in 2005 when his collection of short stories, ''20th Century Ghosts,'' was published in Britain.

Similarities in subject matter and appearance -- Hill has his father's bushy eyebrows and the dark beard he sported decades ago -- were enough to stir suspicion among followers of the horror genre.

''It got blogged to death,'' Hill recalled. But only when his identity was trumpeted in Variety last year did he realize that the secret was gone for good. ''That was really the nail in the coffin,'' he said.

Still, his pen name had a good ride. The editor of ''Heart-Shaped Box'' was unaware of the King connection and Hill's agent remained in the dark for eight years before the author spilled the beans two years ago.

Hill's decision to follow his father's career should come as no surprise. His mother, Tabitha King, has been turning out novels for decades. His younger brother, Owen King, came out in 2005 with a well-received novella and short story collection that is more literary than horrific and laced with absurdity.

Like Hill, Owen King wanted to cut his own path and his book did not mention his parentage. But he decided against a pen name, figuring it would be too much trouble to try to go by an alias when meeting people or having an agent, manager, publicist or personal assistant handle details of his professional life.

The only sibling who has yet to make it into print is Naomi King, oldest of the three, who has switched careers from restaurateur to Unitarian minister. But Hill said his sister is working on a nonfiction project: a book-length study of the sermon as literary text and its place in American culture.

The King children's interest in books and writing took root early on. ''It sounds very Victorian, but we would sit around and read aloud nightly, in the living room or on the porch,'' Hill recalled. ''This was something we kept on doing until I was in high school, at least.''

In an era of celebrity worship, the family has prided itself on being able to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible despite Stephen King's fame and fortune. Hill and his brother attended public high school in Bangor, Maine, before going on to Vassar College, where they overlapped for one year.

After graduation, Hill and Owen King collaborated on a couple of screenplays. They sold one, but it has yet to be made into a movie.

The first half of ''Heart-Shaped Box'' is set in New York's Hudson Valley, the area around Vassar, where Judas Coyne lives with his latest Goth girlfriend, who 30 years his junior, and two devoted German shepherds.

At first, Hill envisioned his tale of a suit with a ghost attached as grist for a short story. But as he added depth and back story to his characters, it ballooned into a novel 10 times longer than what he originally planned.

The choice of title was pure serendipity. Hill's initial idea, ''Private Collection,'' went by the wayside when the 1993 Nirvana song popped up on iTunes as the author was getting ready to write the episode in which UPS delivers the haunted suit to Coyne. It was then that Hill decided to package the suit in a heart-shaped box.

''Coyne is fiction and (Kurt) Cobain was a real guy,'' he said, ''but I felt that the song fit very well with the book. The song is about a guy who feels trapped and desperate, and the book is about how someone uses music as a hammer to beat at the bars of his own cage.''

Hill and his wife, whom he met at Vassar, live in southern New Hampshire with their three children. He is reluctant to say much about his private life, recalling how a crazed fan broke into his family's home in Bangor in 1991 and threatened his mother, a frightening episode that evoked the plot of King's earlier best seller, ''Misery.''

Stephen King declined a request for comment on his son's novel. ''He's trying to go along with Joe's wishes and let him do this on his own,'' said his spokeswoman, Marsha DeFilippo.

But at a recent panel discussion in New York, King told a questioner that he wouldn't rule out a collaborative book project with his son.

''I guess anything's possible,'' he said. ''I took them on my knee, read them stories, changed their diapers, and now they're all grown up and they have become writers, of all things. I am really proud of them. I guess we'll see what happens down the road.''

Associated Press Writer Colleen Long in New York contributed to this report.


On the Net:


Secret of Horror Writer's Lineage Broken, NYT, 17.3.2007,






‘Echo Maker’

Wins Book Award for Fiction


November 16, 2006
The New York Times


“The Echo Maker,” an enigmatic novel by Richard Powers that tells the story of a young man who develops a rare brain disorder after an automobile accident, won the National Book Award for fiction last night.

“The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan was the surprise winner of the top prize for nonfiction.

In the book, Mr. Egan, a former New York Times reporter who remains a frequent contributor to the newspaper, gives an account of the dust storms that descended on the Great Plains during the Depression.

“Abraham Lincoln said we cannot escape history, but this history of the Dust Bowl nearly escaped us,” Mr. Egan, a third-generation Westerner, told a crowd of more than 700 publishers, writers and editors.

As in recent years, the fiction category raised eyebrows in the publishing industry for its lack of commercially known nominees in a year of big-name authors.

The awards were presented at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan at a black-tie ceremony, a splashy event drawing many of the most prominent names in the book publishing industry.

Fran Lebowitz, the writer and humorist, was the evening’s host, appearing in her trademark tuxedo and white pocket square, and drawing loud cheers when she paused from poking fun at the show’s organizers to tweak President Bush and his Iraq policy.

Winners each receive a bronze sculpture and $10,000, although the award’s greatest benefit is often in increased sales, especially when little-known authors are suddenly thrust into the spotlight. In addition to Mr. Powers, this year’s finalists for fiction were Mark Z. Danielewski for “Only Revolutions” (Pantheon), Ken Kalfus for “A Disorder Peculiar to the Country” (Ecco/HarperCollins), Dana Spiotta for “Eat the Document” (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) and Jess Walter for “The Zero” (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins). “The Echo Maker” was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Joining Mr. Egan as finalists for nonfiction were Taylor Branch for “At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68” (Simon & Schuster); Rajiv Chandrasekaran for “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone” (Alfred A. Knopf); Peter Hessler for “Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present” (HarperCollins); and Lawrence Wright for “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” (Alfred A. Knopf). Mr. Egan’s publisher was Houghton Mifflin.

Since 1989, the awards have been presented by the National Book Foundation, but the prizes were first given in 1950, when Nelson Algren won the fiction award for “The Man With the Golden Arm” and Ralph L. Rusk won the nonfiction prize for “The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

In the intervening decades, the roster of winners has included Ralph Ellison for “Invisible Man” in 1953; Norman Mailer for “The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History” in 1969; Saul Bellow for “Mr. Sammler’s Planet” in 1971; William Styron for “Sophie’s Choice” in 1980; and Philip Roth for “Sabbath’s Theater” in 1995.

Among last year’s winners were William T. Vollmann, who took the fiction honors for “Europe Central,” and Joan Didion, who was given the nonfiction prize for her memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

The winners are decided during a judges’ luncheon on the day of the awards. To be eligible for this year’s awards, books must have been published between Dec. 1, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2006.

M. T. Anderson received the award for young people’s literature, for “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party” (Candlewick Press). The award for poetry went to Nathaniel Mackey for “Splay Anthem” (New Directions Publishing).

Last night, the foundation also gave two lifetime achievement awards.

Sharing the Literarian Award for outstanding service to the American literary community yesterday were Robert Silvers and, posthumously, Barbara Epstein, co-founders and editors of The New York Review of Books. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, presented the award.

Mr. Remnick called The New York Review of Books “never more necessary,” adding that it is “a guide, an interpreter and a political inspiration in the darkest of times.”

Adrienne Rich, the author of several nonfiction books and nearly 20 volumes of poetry, received the foundation’s medal for distinguished contribution to American letters. In 1974, she won the National Book Award for poetry for “Diving Into the Wreck.”

In her acceptance speech last night, Ms. Rich rebutted what she called the “free market critique of poetry,” that the genre is unprofitable, and therefore useless. But “when poetry lays its hand on our shoulder,” she said, “we can be, to almost a physical degree, touched and moved.”

‘Echo Maker’ Wins Book Award for Fiction, NYT, 16.11.2006,






An instinct for the future


George Orwell:

The Age's Adversary,

by Patrick Reilly

(Macmillan, £27.50)


April 10 1986


From The Guardian archive


April 10 1986
The Guardian


1984 unloosed an Orwellian flood of truly Biblical proportions. Here in 1986 the flood starts again. 'The world's evolution,' says the author, 'has placed him at the heart of our present complexities, and we go to his writing not in any spirit of aloof research but to find solutions to existing problems.'

This is a wonderful book. Orwell-lovers, Orwell-haters and any benighted Laodiceans left in the middle should all read it. Socialists should read it, democratic Socialists; the rest have no right to defile the name.

Who can doubt that 'the collapse of the vision of Socialism' has been 'one of the great intellectual traumas of the West,' and that therefore the means whereby Socialism is to be revived both as 'an idea and ideal' is 'for many in Europe the key question'?

To attempt the task while spurning Orwell is worse than mere arrogance or folly: it is, almost certainly, an act of cowardice too, the very same charge which Orwell levelled at so many of his contemporaries.

Patrick Reilly will have none of the nonsense that Orwell himself had deserted the Socialist cause; he knows his Orwell much too well. True, he could dabble in patronising references to individual workers or the working class he came to honour or love. Usually he detected these lapses before anyone else and was quick to make amends. Usually he paid everyone the compliment of offering the same kind of personal relations. Only the real underdogs got special treatment.

And sometimes he could see much further, in the interests of his adopted class, than many of their authentic spokesmen. In the 1930s he realised how insulting it might be to transfer slum dwellers into working-class ghettos where they couldn't bring their community ethos. He alone, or almost alone, saw the horror of tower blocks when they were no more than a malign glint.

Moreover, the lone prophet needed an escape from the wilderness and a pay packet. He needed them most when all Establishment doors were being slammed in his face, when he could at first find no publisher for Animal Farm, when no newspaper for which he wanted to write would publish what he wrote — except Aneurin Bevan's Tribune. Orwell himself judged Homage to Catalonia his best work and many will concur. 'The intimacy never fully achieved with the English working class is miraculously and movingly consummated on the opening page.'

Altogether, what made Orwell such a challenge to all the massed orthodoxies — what still makes him — was the moulding into one of his art, his character, his message.

Michael Foot

From The Guardian archive > April 10 1986 > An instinct for the future >
George Orwell: The Age's Adversary, by Patrick Reilly (Macmillan, £27.50), G,

Republished 10.4.2007, p. 30, http://digital.guardian.co.uk/guardian/2007/04/10/pages/ber30.shtml






November 24, 1972


Berger turns tables on Booker


From The Guardian archive


Friday November 24, 1972


John Berger last night accepted the Booker Prize - Britain's biggest annual literary award - and said that he would use the £5,000 to help the Black Panthers to resist "further exploitation". He said his object was to turn the prize against its sponsors, Booker McConnell. "Booker McConnell have had extensive trading interests in the Caribbean for more than 180 years," Mr Berger said.

"The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation. One of the consequences of this poverty is that hundreds of thousands of West Indians have been forced to come to Britain as migrant workers. Thus my book about migrant workers would be financed directly out of them or their relatives or ancestors."

Mr Berger (who has also won this year's Guardian fiction prize) was speaking at the Cafe Royal, Regent Street, London, where he accepted the prize from Mr Roy Jenkins, MP, for his novel "G".

The book was chosen from a list of 50 by Cyril Connolly, Elizabeth Bowen and George Steiner. Mr Connolly said the judges chose "G" for "its human and intellectual distinction, its grasp of modern history and sympathy with the oppressed."

Michael McNay


Berger's statement: "The industrial revolution and the inventions and culture which accompanied it and which created modern Europe was initially financed by profits from the slave trade. And the fundamental nature of relations between Europe and the rest of the world, between black and white, has not changed.

"Before the slave trade began, before the European de-humanised himself, clenched himself on his violence, there must have been a moment when black and white approached each other with the amazement of potential equals. The moment passed. And henceforth the world was divided between potential slaves and potential slavemasters.

"The historical destiny of our time is becoming clear. The oppressed are breaking through the wall of silence which was built into their minds by their oppressor. And in their struggle against exploitation and neocolonialism - but only through and by virtue of this common struggle - it is possible for the descendants of the slave and the slavemaster to approach each other again with the amazed hope of potential equals.

"This is why I intend to share the prize with those West Indians in and from the Caribbean who are fighting to put an end to their exploitation."

From The Guardian archive > November 24, 1972 >
Berger turns tables on Booker, G,
Republished 24.11.2006, https://www.theguardian.com/news/1972/nov/24/






November 4, 1960


Jurors unbind

Lawrence and Chatterley


From the Guardian archive


Friday November 4, 1960


Sometimes the Lady Chatterley trial seemed like a setpiece confrontation between all that is good in England and all that is bad. Sometimes one could not keep a straight face at all those skilful men seriously arguing whether it was safe for people to read words they all know describing things they all do. Something died at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, some bad old strand in our culture, and the manner of its going was sometimes funny, sometimes ugly.

Treasury counsel spouting stereotypes from the Authoritarian Personality, while all that he stood for was sinking into the waters of oblivion, was an imposing phenomenon. "There are, are there not, certain standards...", "After all, restraint in sexual matters..." Here prosecution counsel reached inevitably for his copy of Criminal Statistics, which was ruled out by the Judge. The idea that a decrease in sexual restraint will give rise to an increase in criminal activity can only be entertained by one particular temperament, that which believes that all or most sexual appetite tends towards criminal actions.

One should not, perhaps, have doubted the issues. Here was a barrister asking human beings alive now, not the patriarchs of ancient Israel, whether this was a book they would like "their wives and servants" to read, always referring to lovemaking as "bouts", using a contrived philistinism, and finally, trying to panic the jury with an innuendo of buggery in the book. And strangest effect of all, unaware that he himself was obliterated by the fire of Lawrence's writing.

At first it was hard to keep still and silent, so painful was that flat, grinding voice coming between us and the words. But then the voice seemed to vanish; it did not matter who was reading and I for one was brought to realise that those tremendous pages of level and open eloquence had for years been living unremembered in my head as surely as the Authorised Version or Shakespeare themselves.

Lawrence reared up from his grave, sheltered goodness, truth and beauty, and annihilated prosecutors, judges, guardians of taste, fusspots, sadists and all the runners of grey lust with the single cautery of clean English prose.

The hero among the [defence] witnesses was Richard Hoggart. I think he made history. In his evidence, using the word in its correct and proper sense, he said the point Lawrence made was : "Simply, this is what one does. One fucks." If ever the English language comes to be at peace with itself again, the credit will be Lawrence's first, but Hoggart's soon after.

Wayland Young

From the Guardian archive > November 4, 1960 > Jurors unbind Lawrence and Chatterley, G,
Republished 4.11.2006, https://www.theguardian.com/news/1960/nov/04/






5 February 1932


From The Guardian Archive


Mr Aldous Huxley prophesies


Brave New World. By Aldous Huxley. London:
Chatto and Windus.
Pp. 306. 7s. 6d. net.

There are few more brilliantly clever writers to-day than Mr. Aldous Huxley. Yet the title which he gave to one of his earlier books, "These Barren Leaves", is applicable to very much that he has written. He has been persistently drawn to dissect the body of a decaying civilisation, and, although he has often incidentally thrown light upon the principles of life and even at moments almost wistfully affirmed them, he has been obsessed by the processes of death. For him all our immediate yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death – the death of false refinement, of sexual perversity, and of self-conscious isolation.

In "Brave New World" he projects his death-consciousness into all our to-morrows. And the death which he portrays here with an extraordinary fertility of invention and an almost diabolical wit is not the death of morbid introversion but of indistinguishable superficiality, and sameness.

He transports us into a world in which every human being is manufactured according to plan in a labo ratory. Mr. Huxley's description of the fertilising, the bottling and the social predestination rooms is a really brilliant tour de force.

The result of this application of mass-production of biology is to produce an entirely stable and sterile civilisation, a world in which people are happy because they have no individuality to be unsatisfied. And if the delusion of happiness momentarily fades, there is "soma", a drug which transports whoever takes it into a holiday world of absolute conviction.

Mr. Huxley manages very skilfully, however, to discover in this world characters who are both automata within the prescribed limits and appreciably human. And one of them, Bernard Marx, through some error in his "conditioning", has an unhealthy and unsocial desire to be not somebody else but himself. And he in turn brings back from an expedition to the New Mexico Reservation a young man born and reared in a primitive and pre-Fordian manner. The story turns upon the reactions of the "savage" to a civilisation sterilised not only against every physical and mental disease, but every experience of spiritual value.

The book suffers from Mr. Huxley's characteristic inability to believe really in anything. There is nothing which he can imaginatively affirm. The dread of sentiment and the habit of disillusionment are too strong for him. It is easier to exploit the possibilities of mental death than to meet the demands of creative life. H. L'A.F.

Mr Aldous Huxley prophesies, G, 5 February 1932,
republished 5.2.2009, p. 36,






January 17 1928


A Dorset farewell to Thomas Hardy


From The Guardian Archive


Dorchester, Monday. Today the heart of Thomas Hardy was laid to rest in a little country churchyard on the Wessex Downs. This seemed to those who saw it infinitely more important than what was happening in the Abbey, for these were his own people, and to them his heart, untouched and sentient, was Hardy.

There lie in all of us old primitive beliefs and unremembered dreams ready to seize upon our consciousness. Hardy, with his knowledge of the workings of the human mind, would have understood why the people returning from distant towns, and those who still clung to their hamlet homes nearby, who filled the church or waited by the deep and narrow grave, felt — as probably their remote ancestors would have done — that when his heart remained among them, he remained.

The Stinsford churchyard, sloping eastwards, was sheltered from the westerly wind that fluttered the half-mast flags in Dorchester.

To the visitors who knew Hardy from his books the village was Mellstock of "Under The Greenwood Tree". But to the people coming in twos and threes from the town or from the hamlets along muddy, winding lanes, past the thatched farm buildings whose pungent, earthy smell was wafted to the churchyard gates, it was the parish church of their childhood and Hardy was one of themselves, the old inhabitant whose forefathers had worshipped in the church.

The church was filled. Silently the people in the doorway made way for an old man whose journey up the aisle was attended by his doctor. It was Thomas Hardy's younger brother Henry. His cousin, Miss Teresa Hardy, who had intended to be present, was too unwell to travel the short distance from her cottage.

A few seats behind was [an] old man who remembered Hardy as a child, and who sent a handful of Wessex earth from his garden to the Dean of Westminster asking that it might be placed with the buried ashes.

The casket was placed on a small, sun-bleached stool at the end of the open grave as the vicar uttered the first sentences of committal. Then he gave it to the sexton, who placed it far down in the chalky ground before the words "Earth to earth and dust to dust" were pronounced. Mr. Henry Hardy threw a handful of flowers into the grave and then was led away greatly distressed.

Miss Teresa Hardy said, "I was too upset by the idea of Tom's heart being separated from his body that I think I should have fainted if I had gone to the service."

A Dorset farewell to Thomas Hardy,
January 17 1928, The Guardian / From The Guardian Archive,
republished 17.1.2008, p. 34,






June 20, 1924


A novel

where India examines EM Forster


From the Guardian archive


Friday June 20, 1924


A Passage to India By EM Forster, London: Edward Arnold 7s 6d net

The first duty of any reviewer is to welcome Mr EM Forster's reappearance and to express the hope that the general public, as well as the critics, will recognise his merits and their good fortune.

The second is to congratulate him upon the tone and temper of his new novel. To speak of its "fairness" would convey the wrong impression. This is the involuntary fairness of the man who sees.

Mr Forster, in fact, has reached the stage in his development as an artist when, in his own words about Miss Quested, he is "no longer examining life, but being examined by it." He has been examined by India, and this is his confession.

There can be no doubt about the principal faculties which have contributed to its quality: imagination and humour. It is imagination in the strictest sense of the world as the power of seeing and hearing internally, without any obligation to fancy.

His characters draw themselves, and mainly in their conversation. More remarkable even than his vision is Mr Forster's power of inner hearing; he seems incapable of allowing a person to speak out of character, and Dr Aziz strikes one as less invented than overheard.

Equally pure is Mr Forster's humour. His people, British or native, are not satirised or caricatured or made the targets of wit; they are simply enjoyed.

The story is, essentially, that of the close contact of east and west in the persons of Dr Aziz, a Muslim, assistant medical officers of the Chandrapore hospital, and Mr Fielding, principal of the college. In them it is as close as blood itself allows. So far as affection is concerned they are friends, so that the interplay of east and west is along the very finest channels of human intercourse - suggesting the comparison of the blood and air vessels in the lungs; but the friendship is always at the mercy of the feelings which rise from the deeps of racial personality.

Mr Forster leans, if anywhere, towards his own race in his acute sense of their difficulties, but not more than by the weight of blood; and, again, fairness is not the word for his sensitive presentation. It is something much less conscious; not so much a virtue as a fatality of his genius. Whether he presents Englishman or Muslim or Hindu or Eurasian he is no longer examining life, but being examined by it in the deeps of his personality as an artist.

From the Guardian archive > June 20, 1924 >
A novel where India examines EM Forster,
G, Republished 20.6.2006,






July 24, 1916


A mythology is the work of a race


From the Guardian archive


Monday July 24, 1916


The Titans by Charles M. Doughty
London: Duckworth


This is an epic dealing with the creation of the world, the battle of Titans against gods, their defeat and their final subjugation in the service of man.

One does not find fault with Mr. Doughty for writing an epic. No literary genre, once established, is ever outworn. But mythology is dangerous literary material.

It should be a mythology in which the author more or less believes or a mythology in which some people once believed. A mythology cannot be created for literary purposes out of whole cloth; it must be the work of a race.

Mr. Doughty's mythology lacks outline, it lacks tradition, and it lacks concreteness. The theme suggests Milton and Keats. But Milton and Keats at their best communicate a feeling, the one of titanic revolt, the other of titanic silence and despondency.

When they fail they suggest Mr. Doughty. Mr. Doughty's Titans have bulk without meaning. They have violence, but no passions.

Leaned to time-fretted cliffs/ Is entered weariness, in each marble corse.

In Hyperion the weariness is made actual; here it is stated. Bios and Kratos in Prometheus Bound succeed because they are boldly and intentionally abstract, in contrast with a passionate suffering human being. Eschylus never fell into the error of the vague.

As for Mr. Doughty's style, one is puzzled. He aims at the ruggednes of the Saxon tongue. If he were consistently Anglo-Saxon he might arrive at giving a total impression, even employing, as he does, words of which one does not know the meaning.

But there are heavy Latinisms too. One turns from the harsh "From the mount's knees, up to his frozen breast:/ Eotons [sic] and time-giants strive mainly and sweat"

to "... the adamantine Elements couched indivisible particles ...".

One can enjoy a style of excess - Sir Thomas Browne,or Lyly, or Mr. Wyndham Lewis, or Browning - if it is excess in a peculiar and exclusive direction.

Mr. Doughty's style is not archaic; it is not the style of any time or the style of any intelligible pose; it is eccentric, but not personal. Thus it recalls several writers without being imitative of them.

It recalls especially Blake, not the Blake of extraordinary creations of phrase springing at a leap from the unconscious, but the Blake of such verse as America."


T. S. E.

[In 1916 the poet TS Eliot, aged 28,

was teaching at a Highgate school

and was a year away from publishing Prufrock]

From the Guardian archive > July 24, 1916 >
A mythology is the work of a race,
Republished 24.7.2006,






July 2 1913


Lawrence the poet as a novelist


From The Guardian archive


July 2 1913
The Guardian


"Odi et amo" should have been on the title-page of Mr. D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (Duckworth and Co., 6s). The book may be said to contrast filial and maternal love with the kind of love which is called amour.

A good many amours are described, involving several markedly diverse persons; but all the affairs are unanimous in one matter — whatever kind of love it may be, some kind of hate is mixed up. A simultaneous passion of love and hatred is a well-known psychological fact; and Mr. Lawrence makes its appearance in his story curiously credible. But it is not a very pleasant fact; is it not a weakness of vitality, a kind of failure — life failing to appreciate itself, hating itself because it cannot appreciate the splendour of its own fate? Whether or not, it is a fact one can easily have too much of.

If Mr. Lawrence thought to give intensity to the whole length (the very considerable length) of his story by this mingling of contrary passions, he miscalculated seriously. The constant juxtaposition of love and hatred like all obsessions soon becomes tiresome. You begin to look out for the word "hate" as soon as you have read the word "love,". "Odi et amo" does marvellous well in an epigram; in a novel of four hundred odd pages it is a bore.

The book has no particular shape and no recognisable plot; themes are taken up, and dropt. Everything that happens is an extraordinarily long time about it, and sometimes it takes a very long time for nothing at all to happen.

Faults like these ought to swamp any virtues the book may possess. So, perhaps, it would, if Mr. Lawrence were simply a novelist. But he is one of the most remarkable poets of the day; and these faults are of no more account than the soot of a brilliant, vehement flame. You find yourself protesting that this thing or that thing bores you, and eagerly reading on in spite of your protestations.

You decide that the old collier, the father, is a dirty brute; and then perceive that he profoundly has your sympathy. The mother is a creature of superb and lovable heroism; and yet she is sometimes downright disagreeable. You think you are reading an unimportant scene; and then find that it has burnt itself on your mind. The "Odi et amo" of the main theme, in fact, is only an exaggerated instance of the quality which runs through the whole book.

"Sons and Lovers" [stands] out from the fiction of the day as an achievement of the first quality.


From The Guardian archive > July 2 1913 >
Lawrence the poet as a novelist, G,
republished 2.7.2007, p. 34,






September 30 1902


Mr Kipling's taste but  dilute


From The Guardian Archive


Just So Stories for Little Children, by Rudyard Kipling.

One's first feeling after reading quickly the book of stories that Mr. Kipling publishes to-day is one of disappointment. The Kipling taste is in your mouth, but it is dilute Kipling.

You are inclined to grumble at being put off with tobacco so heavily watered and spirits so much below proof. Was it for this that our literature was enriched with the smell of the smokeroom? Why, this scarcely smells at all.

His first disappointment over, the adult finds it occurring to him that Mr. Kipling has actually written a children's book meant to be liked by children, and not merely to be called by grown-up people a book that children are sure to like. This much grasped, you begin to feel that the absence of everything that you had been missing is a proof of artistic self-denial.

A writer fanatically, almost telegraphically terse, he has not flinched from the litanies of verbal repetition, the Homeric otioseness of fixed epithets that children exact so severely from candidates for the honour of amusing them.

He who has penetrated to the heart, if not of human wisdom, at least of young mannish knowingness, has bent his spirit to say of a man inside a whale that on his entry:

He stumped and he jumped and he thumped and he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped...

And, of the whale itself, that before trying this uneasy diet:

He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.

Such things are not written with the heart's blood, but children will not have them otherwise, and if Mr. Kipling can bring himself to give his special powers so complete a rest for the delectation of the nursery, it is not for critics to forget the rule of judging every work of art in the light of its intention. As a book truly intended for children this one is very good.




Tragic death of M. Zola. Paris.

M. Emile Zola was this morning found dead in his house from accidental asphyxiation by poisonous gases emitted from a stove, the pipe of which is stated to have been fitted badly.

Mr Kipling's taste but dilute,
G, September 30 1902, republished 30.9.2008, p. 36,






December 10 1895


The Guardian archive


Jude the Obscure


To all admirers of Mr. Thomas Hardy's genius Jude the Obscure (Osgood and McIlvaine, 8vo, pp.517, 6s.) can only bring keen disappointment. We have gained so much positive delight from him in the past that we had come to regard the appearance of a new book as an event of unmixed pleasure.

To be shown by a master hand the essential and characteristic loveliness of English landscape, to be amused and interested by a flow of racy talk which, if not the actual talk of the real agricultural labourer, was yet always appropriate and in close artistic sympathy with the painted scene, to have our literary sense pleased by a style which, though occasionally exuberant, was always picturesque — these are the pleasures we have learned to expect from Mr. Hardy.

It is true that in "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" there was, for the first time, an introduction of a controversial as opposed to an artistic purpose. But though discussion might rage at the time as to whether Tess was or was not "a pure woman," the point must ultimately be lost sight of in the beauty of those descriptions of the Blackmoor Vale and the Upland Farm which alone would suffice to keep the book alive.

It is unfortunately not so with "Jude the Obscure". The purpose is so strong, so insistent, so polemical as to swamp everything else. There is not in the whole 517 pages of this dreary production one single paragraph which makes for pleasure. Beauty, to which in all its forms Mr. Hardy has hitherto shown himself so sensitive, is conspicuous only by absence.

For human beings the accumulated experience of centuries has shown the institution of marriage to be pre-eminently well suited. Let us see what plea Mr. Hardy offers for so tremendous an iconoclasm as its destruction. Reduced to its lowest terms, the thesis of the book may be expressed in these propositions — (1) It is always irksome, often tragic, for a man and woman to be tied to one another after passion is dead; (2) if compulsion were withdrawn and marriage made terminable at will, passion might have a longer life. In other words, the whole object of relations between men and women should be, according to Mr. Hardy, the maintenance of a state of emotional excitement.

Such is the plea upon which we are asked to do away with marriage, that great school of character, to whose inexorable discipline the best men and women have gladly owned themselves indebted for all that was soundest and sweetest in their lives. We are afraid Mr. Hardy will have to find another and a better one before he can hope to get serious people to listen to him.

   Jude the Obscure, The Guardian, December 10 1895,
    Republished December 10 2008,
    The Guardian archive,






May 3, 1864



and his old horror of the dark river


From The Guardian Archive


Tuesday May 3, 1864



Our Mutual Friend By Charles Dickens: Chapman and Hall

Mr Dickens, who has so long been accustomed to let his novels dribble forth in weekly instalments, is carrying us back to old times by bringing out a story in monthly parts.

In much which those thirty pages contain, we recognise the beginnings of original ideas which have not had their development in any previous novel. Especially we recognise the easy mastery of language and the fanciful style which distinguishes all of Mr. Dickens's writing.

Quaint adjectives which embody an idea as vividly as a gleam of sunshine will reveal a landscape, and a richness of imagination which is playfully poured out over every subject he treats, may always be observed in any utterance by the great author of "David Copperfield".

Mr. Dickens's old horror of the dark river comes out again in the very first sentences. A man who gets his living fishing for dead bodies in the Thames is the first personage introduced.

In the mystery concerning the disappearance of a certain Mr Harmon, who was to come over from the West Indies to inherit a large fortune and marry a young lady left to him under the will, there is already a good deal of interest.

It is a body which is supposed to be his which is found by the river searcher when we first see him at his work. The clothes on it are identified and everything appears to show that the body is really that of Mr. Harmon, but perhaps some persons inclined to speculate will think that it may not be Mr. Harmon after all.

In the opening passages, Mr. Dickens's early style reappears :

"... A boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames as an autumn evening was closing in. The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a dark girl of nineteen or twenty. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man, with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, kept an eager look-out. He had no net, hook or line, and he could not be a fisherman; and he could not be a waterman ... but his eyes watched every little race and eddy. She watched his face as earnestly as he watched the river. But, in the intensity of her look there was a touch of dread or horror."

For some time to come there will be a new interest in the first of each month, for a new novel by Dickens is a literary event.

From The Guardian Archive,
May 3, 1864,
Dickens and his old horror of the dark river,
Republished 3.5.2006, 










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