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

A Good Comb

Nonfiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

The Informed Air

Fiction 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.…
More Information

Loitering with Intent

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.
More Information

The Bachelors

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.
More Information

The Ballad of Peckham Rye

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.
More Information

A Far Cry from Kensington

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

Memento Mori

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.
More Information

Territorial Rights

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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…
More Information

The Driver’s Seat

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.
More Information

The Comforters

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.
More Information

Curriculum Vitae: A Volume Of Autobiography

Nonfiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

Not to Disturb

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

Symposium

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

All The Poems of Muriel Spark

Poetry by 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.…
More Information

Ghost Stories

Fiction by Muriel Spark

“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.…
More Information

Robinson

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

All the Stories of Muriel Spark

Fiction by 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.…
More Information

A Far Cry from Kensington

Fiction by Muriel Spark

Mrs. Hawkins, the majestic narrator of A Far Cry from Kensington, takes us well in hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London. There, as a fat but much admired young war widow, she spent her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher (“of very good books”) and her evenings dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming house. At work and at home, Mrs. Hawkins soon uncovered evil; shady literary doings and a deadly enemy; anonymous letters, blackmail, and suicide.…
More Information

Memento Mori

Fiction by Muriel Spark

Their geriatric leathers are soon thoroughly ruffled by these perhaps supernatural phone calls, and in the resulting flurry many old secrets are dusted off. Cracks appear on the once decorous surface of their lives––unsavories like blackmail and adultery are now to be glimpsed. Spooky, poignant and wickedIy hilarious, Memento Mori may deal in death, but it is a book which leaves one relishing life all the more.
More Information

The Ballad of Peckham Rye

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

The Girls of Slender Means

Fiction by Muriel Spark

“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.…
More Information

Open to the Public

Fiction by Muriel Spark

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.…
More Information

Abbess of Crewe

Fiction by Muriel Spark

“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.…
More Information

The Comforters

Fiction by Muriel Spark

Delicious for its wit and poise, The Comforters (1957) was a stunning debut. With her now signature air of easy, sunny eeriness, Spark lights up the darkest things — blackmail, drownings, breakdowns, human evil. Caroline, “a most jumpy woman at the best of times”; the whiny converts; the loathsome busybody Georgina Hogg (“that gargoyle”); a diabolist bookseller; a ring of smugglers and the sublime, cunning grandmother who runs it: these are Spark’s meat.…
More Information

The Driver’s Seat

Fiction by Muriel Spark

“I aim to startle as well as please,” Muriel Spark once said, and in The Driver’s Seat (1970), her aim is all too true. Her most unnerving novel, this is a book to make the flesh creep. With fierce economy Spark focuses on her terrifying heroine Lise, who leaves her home in northern Europe for a southern holiday, apparently on the prowl for a lover: “If he’s my type,” she says, “I want to meet him.…
More Information

The Public Image

Fiction by Muriel Spark

“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.…
More Information

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

The most original and innovative British novelist.

New York Review of Books

A wonderful writer.

—James Wood

Completely sick. In all the right ways.

—Tilda Swinton
< Nathaniel Tarn Miroslav Krleža >