A major twentieth-century writer and an extraordinary and unique talent: her gifts were unusual—a piercing eye; an acute ear; an incisive, often caustic wit; a voice so distinctive; and a style so inimitable.

The Chicago Tribune

Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark (1918–2006) began a prolific forty year career as a poet, essayist and novelist some time after marrying and living in Rhodesia, divorcing, moving to London, working for UK intelligence during World War II, and editing The Poetry Review. Of Scottish origin, Spark is remembered for the rare artistry of her audacious and often self-reflective fictions (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori, The Comforters, etc). In 1965, she received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 1965 for The Mendelbaum Gate. In 1992, she won the US Ingersoll Foundation TS Eliot Award, and in 1997, the David Cohen Prize. Muriel Spark became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993.

“I aim to startle as well as please.” – Muriel Spark

cover image of the book A Good Comb

A Good Comb

A Good Comb, a small gift edition of Muriel Spark’s brilliant asides, sayings, and aphorisms, is a book for sheer enjoyment. No writer offers such lively, pointed, puckish insights: “Neurotics are awfully quick to notice other people’s mentalities.” “It is impossible to persuade a man who does not disagree, but smiles.” “The sacrifice of pleasure is of course itself a pleasure.” “It is impossible to repent of love. The sin of love does not exist.” “She wasn’t a person to whom things happen.” “You look for one thing and you find another.” “It calms you down, a good comb.”

Her scope is great and her striking insights are precise and unforgettable. This book will entertain you—it will even help you live your life. Drink in the pleasures of this little volume along with the benefits of taking up such advice as “Never make excuses but if you must, never make more than one—it gives the appearance of insincerity.

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cover image of the book The Informed Air

The Informed Air

by Muriel Spark

With a contribution by Penelope Jardine

A fantastic essayist, the inimitable Muriel Spark addresses here the writing life, cats, favorite writers (the Brontës, T. S. Eliot, Robert Burns, Mary Shelley), love, Piero della Francesca, life in wartime London and in glamorous “Hollywoodon-the-Tiber” 1960s Rome, faith, and parties (on her first New Year’s Eve, as a baby sipping her mother’s sherry: “I always loved a party”).

No one was as “fearless and original” (TLS) as Muriel Spark, who believed that “art is an act of daring.” Here she glides from the mysteries of Job’s sufferings to Dame Edith Sitwell’s cocktail advice about how to handle a nasty publisher: “‘My dear,’ she said, ‘you must acquire a pair of lorgnettes, make an occasion to see that man again, focus the glasses on him and sit looking at him through them as if he was an insect. Just look and look.’”

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cover image of the book Loitering with Intent

Loitering with Intent

Happily loitering in London with the intent of gathering material for her writing, Fleur Talbot finds a job “on the grubby edge of the literary world” at the very peculiar Autobiographical Association. Mad egomaniacs writing their memoirs in advance — or poor fools ensnared by a blackmailer? When the association’s pompous director steals Fleur’s manuscript, fiction begins to appropriate life in this darkly comedic delight.

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cover image of the book The Bachelors

The Bachelors

First found contentedly chatting in their London clubs, the cozy bachelors (as any Spark reader might guess) are not set to stay cozy for long. Soon enough, the men are variously tormented — defrauded or stolen from; blackmailed or pressed to attend horrid séances; plunged into the nastiest of lawsuits. And every horror delights: each is lit up by Spark’s uncanny wit, at once funny and deadly serious.

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cover image of the book A Far Cry from Kensington

A Far Cry from Kensington

Nancy Hawkins, the majestic narrator of A Far Cry From Kensington, takes us by the hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London, where she spent her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher (“of very good books”) and her nights dispensing advice at her small South Kensington boarding house. She found evil everywhere: shady literary doings and a deadly enemy; anonymous letters; blackmail; and suicide.

Looking back on those years from her new perch in Italy, Mrs. Hawkins recounts how that time changed her life forever, using the novel as a platform for advice. “It’s easy to get thin,” she says. “You eat and drink the same as always, only half… I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book.”

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cover image of the book The Ballad of Peckham Rye

The Ballad of Peckham Rye

The Ballad of Peckham Rye is the wickedly farcical tale of an English factory turned upside-down by a Scot who may or may not be in league with the Devil. Hired to do “human research” into the lives of the workers, Dougal Douglas stirs up mayhem.

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cover image of the book Memento Mori

Memento Mori

In late 1950s London, something uncanny besets a group of elderly friends: an insinuating voice on the telephone reminds each: Remember you must die. Their geriatric feathers are soon thoroughly ruffled, and many an old unsavory secret is dusted off.

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cover image of the book Territorial Rights

Territorial Rights

Layers of intrigue; overlapping and triangulating love affairs; old but not-yet-forgotten murders; international spy-craft; adultery; parental interference; the sweet careless rapture of youth; unmarked graves — Territorial Rights claims much ground and Muriel Spark enjoys a wicked dance on it.

Little is what it seems at first when young Robert Curran is “taken through the sunny waters of palaces, domes and ferries” to the Pensione Sofia, on his first visit to Venice…

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cover image of the book The Driver’s Seat

The Driver’s Seat

Driven mad by an office job, Lise leaves everything and flies south on holiday in search of passionate adventure. In this metaphysical shocker, infinity and eternity attend Lise’s last terrible day in the unnamed southern city that is her final destination.

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cover image of the book The Comforters

The Comforters

With her now-signature air of easy, sunny eeriness, Spark lights up the darkest things: blackmail; a drowning; nervous breakdowns; a loathsome busybody; a diabolist bookseller; human evil. These—along with a ring of smugglers and a metaphysical trap to be sprung—are Spark’s meat, served up here in dazzling and rigorous fashion.

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cover image of the book Curriculum Vitae: A Volume Of Autobiography

Curriculum Vitae: A Volume Of Autobiography

It is no surprise that one of Muriel Spark’s most lively and entertaining works would be her own memoir, Curriculum Vitae. Born to a Scottish Jewish father and an English Presbyterian mother, Spark describes her childhood in 1930s Edinburgh in brief, dazzling anecdotes. In one she recalls a cherished schoolteacher, Christina Kay, who would later be used as the prototype for Miss Jean Brodie. Spark boldly details her disastrous first marriage to Sydney Oswald Spark (S.O.S.) – himself thirty-two, she just nineteen – whom she followed to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and left behind to return to England. In the midst of WWII, Spark took a bizarre position working in the disinformation campaign of the British Secret Service, eliciting information from German POWs to combat Nazi propoganda. She later moved to the Poetry Society of London, where she mingled with literati and other intellectuals, befriended by some (such as Graham Greene, an early supporter of her work) and sparring with others. We experience Spark’s joy with the publication of her first novel, The Comforters, her trials with other writers’ envy, and her emergence as the most brilliant femme fatale of 20th-century English literature.

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cover image of the book Not to Disturb

Not to Disturb

A winter’s night; a luxurious mansion near Geneva; a lucrative scandal. The first to arrive is the secretary dressed in furs with a bundle of cash, then the Baron, and finally the Baroness. They lock themselves in the library with specific instructions not to be disturbed for any reason. Soon, shouts and screams emerge from the library; the Baron’s lunatic brother starts madly howling in the attic; two of the secretary’s friends are left waiting in a car; a reverend’s services are needed for an impromptu wedding—and despite all that the servants obey their orders as they pass the time playing records, preparing dinner, and documenting false testimonies while a twisted murder plot unfolds upstairs.

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One October evening five posh London couples gather for a dinner party, enjoying “the pheasant (flambé in cognac as it is)” and waiting for the imminent arrival of the late-coming guest Hilda Damien, who has been unavoidably detained due to the fact that she is being murdered at this very moment… Symposium was applauded by Time magazine for the “sinister elegance” of Muriel Spark’s “medium of light but lethal comedy.” Mixed in are a Monet, a mad uncle, some unconventional nuns, and a burglary ring run by a rent-a-butler. Symposium stars a perfectly evil young woman (a classic sweet-faced hair-raising Sparkian horror) who has married rich Hilda’s son by hook or by crook, hooking him at the fruit counter of Harrod’s. There is also spiritual conversation — and the Bordeaux is superb. “The prevailing mood is urbane: the wine is poured, the talk continues, and all the time the ice on which the protagonists’ world rests is being thinned from beneath, by boiling emotions and ugly motives… No living writer handles the tension between formality of expression and subversiveness of thought more elegantly” (The Independent on Sunday).

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cover image of the book All The Poems of Muriel Spark

All The Poems of Muriel Spark

In the seventy-three poems collected here Muriel Spark works in open forms as well as villanelles, rondels, epigrams, and even the tour de force of a twenty-one page ballad. She also shows herself a master of unforgettable short poems. Before attaining fame as a novelist (Memento Mori, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Muriel Spark was already an acclaimed poet. The “power and control” of her poetry, as Publishers Weekly remarked, “is almost startling.” With the vitality and wit typical of all her work, Dame Muriel has never stopped writing poems, which frequently appear in The New Yorker. As with all her creations, the poems show Spark to be “astonishingly talented and truly inimitable” (The San Francisco Chronicle).

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Ghost Stories

“I aim to startle as well as please,” Muriel Spark has said, and in these eight marvelous ghost stories she manages to do both to the highest degree. As with all matters in the hands of Dame Muriel, her spooks are entirely original. A ghost in her pantheon can be plaintive or a bit vengeful, or perhaps may not even be aware of being a ghost at all. Spark has a flair for confiding ghosts: “I must explain that I departed this life nearly five years ago. But I did not altogether depart this world. There were those odd things still to be done which one’s executors can never do properly.” In her case the odd things include cheerily hailing her murderer, “Hallo George!” and driving him mad. Regarding this ghost story (“The Portobello Road”), Stephen Schiff said in The New Yorker: “Muriel Spark has written some of the best sentences in English. For instance, ’He looked as if he would murder me and he did.’ It’s a nasty piece of work, that sentence.” Included here are some of her most wicked and famous stories — “The Seraph and the Zambesi,” “The Hanging Judge,” and “The Portobello Road” — and they all gleam with that special Spark sheen, the quality The Times Literary Supplement hailed as “gloriously witty and polished.”

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cover image of the book Robinson


January Marlow, our unsentimental heroine, is one of three survivors out of twenty-nine souls when her plane crashes, blazing, on Robinson’s island. Presumed dead for months, the three survivors must wait for the annual return of the pomegranate boat. Robinson, a determined loner, proves a fair if misanthropic host to his uninvited guests; he encourages January to keep a journal: as “an occupation for my mind, and I fancied that I might later dress it up for a novel. That was most peculiar, as things transpired, for I did not then anticipate how the journal would turn upon me, so that having survived the plane disaster, I should nearly meet my death through it.” In Robinson, Spark’s supreme second novel, under the tropical glare and strange fogs of the tiny island, we find a volcano, a ping-pong playing cat, a dealer in occult as well as lucky charms, flying ants, sexual tension, a disappearance, blackmail, and — perhaps — murder. Everything astounds, confounds, and convinces, frighteningly. “She is,” as Charles Alva Hoyt once put it, “the Jane Austen of the Surrealists.” “To read Spark,” as The Georgia Review noted, “is to encounter delight after delight,” and this marvelous novel is another display of the powers of our “most gifted and innovative British novelist” (The New York Times). She has been called “completely, searingly original" (Independent) and “wickedly funny… astonishingly talented… and truly inimitable” (San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle). In the work of Dame Muriel — in the last words of _Robinson — _“immediately all things are possible.”

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cover image of the book All the Stories of Muriel Spark

All the Stories of Muriel Spark

Spanning her entire career to date, All the Stories of Muriel Spark contains four brand new tales. Now in hand is every single one of her forty-one marvelous stories. “To read Spark,” as the Georgia Review put it, “is to encounter delight after delight.” Ranging from South Africa to the West End, her dazzling stories feature hanging judges, fortune-tellers, shy girls, psychiatrists, dress designers, pensive ghosts, never-departing guests, and imaginary chauffeurs. Regarding one story (“The Portobello Road”), Stephen Schiff said in The New Yorker: “Muriel Spark has written some of the best sentences in English. For instance: ’He looked as if he would murder me, and he did.’ It’s a nasty piece of work, that sentence.”

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cover image of the book The Ballad of Peckham Rye

The Ballad of Peckham Rye

The Ballad of Peckham Rye is the wickedly farcical fable of a blue-collar town turned upside down. When the firm of Meadows, Meade & Grindley hires Dougal Douglas (a.k.a. Douglas Dougal) to do “human research” into the private lives of its workforce, they are in no way prepared for the mayhem, mutiny, and murder he will stir up. “Not only funny but startlingly original,” declared The Washington Post, “the legendary character of Dougal Douglas…may not have been boasting when he referred so blithely to his association with the devil.” In fact this Music Man of the thoroughly modern corporation changes the lives of all the eccentric characters he meets, from Miss Merle Coverdale, head of the typing pool, to V.R. Druce, unsuspecting Managing Director. The Ballad of Peckham Rye presents Dame Muriel Spark at her most devilishly piquant.

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cover image of the book The Girls of Slender Means

The Girls of Slender Means

“Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions," begins The Girls of Slender Means, Dame Muriel Spark’s tragic and rapier-witted portrait of a London ladies’ hostel just emerging from the shadow of World War II. Like the May of Teck Club itself — “three times window-shattered since 1940 but never directly hit” — its lady inhabitants do their best to act as if the world were back to normal: practicing elocution, and jostling over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown. The novel’s harrowing ending reveals that the girls’ giddy literary and amorous peregrinations are hiding some tragically painful war wounds. Chosen by Anthony Burgess as one of the Best Modern Novels in The London Sunday Times Review, The Girls of Slender Means is a taut and eerily perfect novel by an author The New York Times has called “one of this century’s finest creators of comic-metaphysical entertainment.”

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Open to the Public

The thirty-seven marvelous stories of Open to the Public include ten which have never before been published in an American collection. The stories span Dame Muriel Spark’s entire career to date and display her lion’s share of literary gifts: beauty, stealth, originality, elegance, wit, and shock value. And with the élan of one of Muriel Spark’s own plot developments, this volume of a lifetime’s work coincides with her having just won England’s most prestigious literary award, the 1997 David Cohen British Literature Prize for Lifetime Achievement. Announcing the prize, the chairman of the judges, Professor Andrew Motion, said of Dame Muriel: “Her writing has become part of our life. Yet one of her greatest gifts is to make things we know seem new and strange and wonderful. She richly deserves this prize. She is the most independent and consistent and technically brilliant writer of her day. She defies fashion and is extraordinarily prolific. She is a wholly original presence in modern literature.” No writer commands so exhilarating a style playful and rigorous, cheerful and venomous, hilariously acute and coolly supernatural. Ranging from South Africa to the West End, her dazzling stories feature hanging judges, fortune-tellers, shy girls, psychiatrists, dress designers, pensive ghosts. Regarding one story (“The Portobello Road”), Stephen Schiff said in The New Yorker: “Muriel Spark has written some of the best sentences in English. For instance: ’He looked as if he would murder me, and he did.’ It’s a nasty piece of work, that sentence.” A treat for her fans, this definitive collection bears out John Updike’s opinion that “Muriel Spark’s writing always gives delight…. She is one of the few authors on either side of the Atlantic with enough resources, daring, and stamina to be altering as well as feeding the fiction machine.

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cover image of the book Abbess of Crewe

Abbess of Crewe

“The short dirk in the hands of Muriel Spark has always been a deadly weapon.” said The New York Times, and “never more so than in The Abbess of Crewe.” An elegant little fable about intrigue, corruption, and electronic surveillance, The Abbess of Crewe (1974) is set in an English Benedictine convent. Steely and silky Abbess Alexandra (whose aristocratic tastes run to pâté, fine wine, English poetry, and carpets of “amorous green”) has bugged the convent, and rigged her election. But the cat gets out of the bag, and — plunged into scandal — the serene Abbess faces a Vatican inquiry.

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cover image of the book The Public Image

The Public Image

“All homage to Muriel Spark, the coolest writer ever to scald your liver and your lights” (The Washington Post). The Public Image, which the author has called “an ethical shocker,” provides a scalding the reader is unlikely to forget, particularly, as it is so enjoyable. Spark chooses Rome, “the motherland of sensation,” for the setting of her story about movie star Annabel Christopher (known to her adoring fans as “The English Lady-Tiger”), who has made the fatal mistake of believing in her public image. This error and her embittered husband, an unsuccessful actor, catch up with her. His final act is only the first shocking climax — further surprises await. Neatly savaging our celebrity culture, Spark rejoices in one of her favorite subjects — the clash between sham and genuine identity — and provides Annabel with an unexpected triumph. The Public Image is a wickedly funny and beautiful masterwork by a writer who is herself the crème de la crème.

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A major twentieth-century writer and an extraordinary and unique talent: her gifts were unusual—a piercing eye; an acute ear; an incisive, often caustic wit; a voice so distinctive; and a style so inimitable.

The Chicago Tribune

Surely the most engaging, most tantalizing writer we have.

Frank Kermode, The London Review of Books

A wonderful writer.

James Wood

Muriel’s sparky prose is the best way to start your day. Reading a blast of her prose every morning is a far more restorative way to start a day than a shot of espresso.

The Telegraph (London)

Witty, exacting, and wholly original. Muriel Spark’s writing is sui generis, her influence unquantifiable. These essays reveal in diamond-cut fragments the things that most amused and most touched her, each facet reflecting some new, surprising aspect of the deep inner workings of her mind.

Maud Newton

Gay inventiveness, salted with black humor.

Sunday Telegraph

Acidly funny: a marvelously crafted, tautly written novel.

Philadelphia Inquirer

A jewel of a book.


Completely, searingly original.

The Independent

Muriel Spark is the master of malice and mayhem.

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The most distinctive voice in postwar British fiction.

Mark Bostridge, The Observer

The most original and innovative British novelist.

The New York Review of Books

A rare writer — wickedly funny — astonishingly talented — and truly inimitable.

San Francisco Chronicle

Muriel Spark was a major 20th-century writer, an extraordinary and unique talent: her gifts were unusual — a piercing eye; an acute ear; an incisive, often caustic wit; a voice so distinctive; and a style so inimitable.

The Chicago Tribune

Outstanding: an effortless, translucent grasp on the spirit of the period.


Mercurially funny, playful and mischievous.

Ali Smith, The Guardian

Far Cry is, among other things, a comedy that holds a tragedy as an egg-cup holds an egg.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Spark’s 1970 novel of a woman gone mad was dubbed ‘so stark as to be nightmarish’ by The New Yorker The story details the last day of protagonist Lise, who, while on holiday in Europe, is about to be murdered.

Library Journal

A complexity which magnifies the impact of its spare length many times over. This is Spark at her best.

The Independent

Spark is an enduring literary influence.


. . . it’s hard for the reader not to conclude, as Spark did about the teacher who first inspired her to write, that ‘her dazzling non-sequiturs filled [the] heart with joy.’

The Guardian

Muriel Spark is completely, searingly original. There is nobody remotely like her writing today.

Independent (London)

What other novelists only aspire to, is achieved by Muriel Spark.

Hudson Review



Some of her finest fictions are novellas rather than novels, short enough to be read in a singly dizzying sitting. The Driver’s Seat is an exemplary case: an extraordinary tour de force, a crime story turned inside out…

David Lodge

Muriel Spark has made herself a mistress at writing stories which seem to trip blithely and bitchily along life’s way until the reader is suddenly pulled up with a shock recognition of death and judgment, heaven and hell.

London Review of Books

I read this book in a delirium of delight. In Loitering with Intent, Miss Spark returns to the early flawless form of Memento Mori and The Comforters robust and full-bodied, a wise and mature work, and a brilliant mischievous one.

New York Times

There is a Waugh-like brilliance to Memento Mori, in the easy economical narrative, the continuous invention producing a series of surprises, the well-cut dialogue, the controlled tone. This last is the most remarkable of Miss Spark’s achievements. Nothing is forced, least of all the humor.

V.S. Naipaul

One of the most decisive and unmistakable voices in contemporary fiction… Spark concocts a present-tense deadpan that is at once lyrical, extravagant, and gruesomely funny.

Stephen Schiff, New Yorker

Her poetry is sparse, exact, and intellectually controlled. It resembles a line in the poem ‘The Yellow Book’: ‘Like a thin umbrella in a black gloved hand.’

Library Journal

Muriel Spark has written some of the best sentences in English.

New Yorker

Spark is a natural, a paradigm of that rare sort of artist from whom work of the highest quality flows as elementally as current through a circuit: hook her to a pen and the juice purls out of her.

Stephen Schiff, New Yorker
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