Written by Sally McDonald, 28 January 2018
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie
SHE is the working class Edinburgh lass who despite turning her back on university became one of the world’s great writers.
To coin her own phrase Dame Muriel Spark, once a humble secretary, was “the crème de la crème” of the 20th Century literary world; her most celebrated novel The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie becoming an Academy Award-winning movie in 1969 starring Maggie Smith.
This week sees the 100th anniversary of Spark’s birth. And it is being marked with the re-release of all 22 of her novels in collectable hardback editions by Polygon with support from Creative Scotland and the Muriel Spark Society.
Spark’s own extraordinary archive of letters, diaries and even her dresses, along with the manuscript of her most celebrated book, are on show until May at The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.
From tomorrow, some of the country’s leading writers, including Val McDermid, Ali Smith, Janice Galloway, Kate Clanchy and Louise Welsh, will discuss her work on Radio 3 while on Wednesday at the city’s Usher Hall First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and authors Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin will be among the luminaries gathering to read, hear and perform her work.
It’s not hard to imagine the rush of excitement eliciting a wry smile from the woman lauded for her rapier wit and incisive observations. Poet Spark, who died in 2006, fell into novels in her forties after a brush with mental illness and her conversion from Judaism to Catholicism.
Her first book, The Comforters, appeared in 1957 to a glowing review by Evelyn Waugh.
Before long she was being referred to as Britain’s greatest living novelist – a title of which she was dismissive.
“I don’t believe it,” she is reported to have said. “You’d have to read all the novels of everybody to be quite sure of that. I don’t like being thought of as best. But I know I’m among the better ones.” Her centenary looks likely to draw a new generation of readers.
Best-selling crime writer McDermid says of Spark: “She’s a writer who’s not so much
under-appreciated as under-read.
“Readers who discover her are captivated by her unique style and the way she constantly wrong-foots us. Her distinctive take on fiction has influenced writers as diverse as Ali Smith and Ian Rankin. I hope the celebrations of her centenary bring her thousands of new fans.”
Read the full article on the Sunday Post Website…