Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Edward Upward 1903-2009

So, Edward Upward's death has been extensively reported. There were obituaries in the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Independent and Morning Star.

The Guardian's had clearly been written a while ago as its author died himself in 2004. I liked the praise for The Spiral Ascent in the Times and Peter Parker's robust defence of the trilogy in the Independent.

1 comment:

Nick Wagstaff said...

With the writing of 'The Railway Accident' at such a young age Edward Upward produced a piece of creative work that he found impossible to equal during the rest of his long career as a writer. In some ways this perfectly designed surrealistic story was at odds with much that he wrote about later in life, except for some short stories he produced in an excitement of creativity late in his very long life. In my view 'The Railway Accident' was a real "smash hit" of surreal events, with its disjointed story telling, elaborate writing, sense of estrangement and danger, and yet he showed a light touch in the way he dealt with disasters. It could be that his public school education had something to do his with hands-off treatment of downplaying problems, or being pushed to extreme disaster. It is all handled with equanimity.

It might be said that the world of the Railway Accident (which is a mere shard of the fantasy land of 'Mortmere' that he created with Christopher Isherwood) dogged his career as a writer. In opposition to the Mortmere fantasy land, he struggled to address the real world of conflict in the mid-twentieth century while accommodating a sense of poetic inspiration, arguably his driving impulse as a writer. The substantial body of fictional works that survive him are remarkable attempts at capturing moments of political struggle and life in the mid-twentieth century history of the UK.

He prefaced "The Rotten Elements", his second novel in the 'Spiral Ascent' trilogy as "a novel of fact". The sheer determination demanded of him to write that work as a piece of objective history is marvellous and a tribute to his literary career. He might well laugh at my thoughts, but I believe his record as a resolute artist of recording the real while fully engaging with the surreal is unbeatable.