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Alphabet of British Writers (Part 3)

At first glance it may seem that the British nation has no artistic talents as they have never produced many world-famous painters, sculptors or composers. It is quite remarkable then that they have had so many brilliant and renowned writers. And indeed, literature is probably the art that the British excel in. You can find at least a few names of well-known British poets and novelists for each letter of the alphabet, and many of the names are famous all over the world. This alphabet of British writers I want to present to you is my subjective list. I chose the literary people I find especially interesting or intriguing or whose achievements are particularly noteworthy. My aim is to show you the richness of British literature and encourage you to read some works written by Brits.

Golding, William Gerald (1911-1993)

William Golding was born on September 19, 1911 in Cornwall, England. He started writing when he was only seven years old, but later, following his parents wishes, he went to study natural sciences and English at Oxford University. After graduating he wrote plays in London and then worked as an English teacher in Salisbury. During World War II he served in the Royal Navy. He took part in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck and in the Normandy invasion. After the war he returned to writing and teaching.

Golding’s first novel, Lord of the Flies, was rejected by twenty-one publishers before it finally appeared in print in 1954. The novel was a great success both in Britain and America. It is a story of a group of small boys on a desert island who, deprived of the adult guidance, adopt barbaric and violent behavior. In The Inheritors (1955) Golding reached into prehistory depicting humankind’s ancestors who triumphed over a gentler race not only by natural superiority but also by deceit and violence. In his other novels he explored the problems of existence and made use of allusions to classical literature, mythology and Christian symbolism. Golding’s later novels were not as successful as the earlier ones, but nevertheless, in 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1988 he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.

His other major works: Pincher Martin (1956), Free Fall (1959), The Spire (1964), The Hot Gates (1965), Darkness Visible (1979), the trilogy The Ends of the Earth: Rites of Passage (1980), Close Quarters (1987), The Fire Down Below (1989).

Huxley, Aldous Leonard (1894-1963)

Born on July 26, 1894 in Godalming, Surrey, Aldous Huxley was a member of a famous scientific and literary family. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, a distinguished biologist who published numerous books on evolution, anatomy and paleontology, and the son of Leonard Huxley, a biographer, poet and editor. Aldous’s brother, Julian, was a wellknown biologist and his aunt, Mary Augusta Ward, was a novelist. What is more, the famous British humanist, Mathew Arnold, was his mother’s uncle.

Aldous also wanted to become a scientist, but at the age of 16 he suffered an attack of an eye disease which nearly blinded him. He nevertheless completed his studies at Oxford University in 1916. As he was unable to pursue a scientific career or fight in World War I, he turned to literature. His first collection of poems appeared in 1916 and by 1920 he had published two more volumes. His first novel, Chrome Yellow, which appeared in print in 1921, was a satire on contemporary society. It was a great success and immediately established his position as a literary figure. He became friends with other famous British novelists, especially members of the Bloomsbury Group. In the next eight years he wrote twelve books, including the famous Point Counter Point (1928), in which he discussed intellectual and social issues and expressed his anxiety about scientific and technological progress. In 1919 he married a Belgian woman, Maria Nys, and one year later his only son was born. Throughout the 1920s Huxley and his family traveled a lot, first to Italy and later to India and the United States. Those travels resulted in his masterpiece, Brave New World, which he published in 1932. The novel presented a dystopian vision of a technologically advanced and hedonistic society of the future which rejects all traditional values.

In 1937 Huxley moved to California, USA, believing that the climate would do his eyesight good. He soon abandoned fiction and started writing essays and screenplays.

In the 1950s he became interested in psychedelic drugs such as mescaline and LSD, which he took ‘in a search for enlightenment.’

His first wife died of breast cancer in 1955 and one year later he married Laura Archera, who later wrote his biography. In 1960 Huxley himself was diagnosed with cancer and he died on November 22, 1963.

His other novels: Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925), Eyeless in Gaza (1936), After Many a Summer (1939), Time Must Have a Stop (1944), Ape and Essence (1948), The Genius and the Goddess (1955), Island (1962).

Ishiguro, Kazuo (1954-)

Kazuo Ishiguro was born on November 8, 1954 in Nagasaki, Japan. In 1960 his father began a two-year research project at the National Institute of Oceanography and the Ishiguro family moved to Guilford, England. Kazuo’s parents thought they would go back to their native Japan one day and it was not until Kazuo was 15 years old that the decision to stay in Britain was made. By that time he had completed primary school and was attending a grammar school for boys in Surrey. Later he studied English and philosophy at the University of Kent, Canterbury, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree.

Then he did a postgraduate course in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

In 1981 three of his short stories appeared in print and one year later his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, was published. The story is narrated by a Japanese widow living in England who recalls her life in post-war Nagasaki. For this novel Ishiguro was awarded the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and soon Granta magazine nominated him as one of the 20 ‘Best Young British writers.’ His second novel, An Artist of the Floating World (1986), won the Whitbread Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, a reward which he won three years later when his third novel, The Remains of the Day, was published. This is the story of an English butler whose memories of his work and life before World War II are intermingled with memories of the rise of Fascism and of the war itself. His next two novels, The Unconsoled (1996) and When We Were Orphans (2000), were also a great success. In 2005 he published his latest novel, Never Let Me Go. It is narrated by Kathy H., who talks about her childhood at a boarding school which, it turns out, was a school for cloned children who had been brought into the world only to provide organs for ‘normal’ people.

Kazuo Ishiguro lives in London with his wife and daughter. In 1995 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for service to literature and in 1998 the French government named him a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Monika Oracz

 

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