Muriel Spark is a bard of nastiness and lies

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The crème de la crème

LIKE Jean Brodie, her greatest creation, Muriel Spark puzzled people as much as beguiling them. She was a Scottish writer who spent most of her life in self-imposed exile in Africa, New York and Italy. She lived in Tuscany with Penelope Jardine, her lifetime companion and literary executor, yet batted off any suggestion that they were lovers. Her novels are mostly short; some were written in the space of six to eight weeks. This brevity annoyed many reviewers (mostly the men). An anonymous critic, writing in 1970 of “The Driver’s Seat”, a taut psychological thriller, moaned that it “will take you 60 minutes to read and cost you sixpence a minute”. But others were entranced.

Spark was born in 1918; to mark her centenary, Polygon, a Scottish imprint, is reissuing all 22 of her novels. Reading them is a corrective to the sentimental view of her that adaptations of her work sometimes encourage. As far-right ideas spread, and misinformation…Continue reading

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