Muriel Spark and Kensington

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Date(s) - 02/12/2018
10:30 am - 12:30 pm

South Kensington tube station


It is 100 years since the birth of Dame Muriel Spark, acclaimed Scottish author, poet, literary critic and biographer – knighted for her contribution to British literature. The adaption for theatre and film of her novel “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” brought her considerable celebrity. This one novel caused several of her other works to be overshadowed, and yet critics have claimed that other novels are as powerful, even of better quality.  One such is “A Far Cry from Kensington” written in the 1980s and looking back to the post-war years, when Muriel Spark first came to live in London.

At the time of the novel is set, in the late 1950s, Muriel Spark was converting to Roman Catholicism and finding success as a fiction writer. Many claim that this book draws on Muriel Spark’s own early career as a proof reader and publishing assistant.  As Ali Smith writes in the introduction to the Virago Modern Classics edition “London is full of people surreally chasing jobs in the publishing industry; part of the novel’s high entertainment is its satire of the book business, as if a job in publishing is like a golden ticket to life itself.”

It is not the only novel that Muriel Spark set in Kensington – there’s also “Loitering with Intent” that offers another slant on her early efforts as a novelist.  Written considerably later, in the 1980s, you are invited to reflect with her on her early struggles as a fiction writer.  She offers some great tips on how to keep the narrative compelling and how not to be too realistic about the characters in your novel.  If “Far Cry” is about how publishers work, then “Loitering” is very much more about authors.

Both novels reveal London in the 1950s, a decade of rationing and of ‘pea soup-ers’.

You can find out more from the Muriel Spark 100 Centenary website.

Participants in “Muriel Spark and Peckham” our November “Between the Lines” event.

10.30am-12.30pm Sunday 2 December 2018 Start: South Kensington tube station £15 (unsuitable for anyone under 16) (£3 cash back early bird discount if purchased by 16/11/18) £20 on the day

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Please try to read the novels before you come – they are available in libraries, in paperback, as well as in a special hardback centenary edition.  Join us in 1950s vintage dress – a warm coat and collar recommended!