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Frayn, Michael

novel research interpreter

(British, 1933– )

Born in London, Frayn was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He is a prolific playwright and journalist, and his fiction is notable for its witty treatments of contemporary social and cultural preoccupations. Begin with The Tin Men (1965), his first novel, which is set in a research institute dedicated to achieving automation of all everyday tasks. As a visit from the Queen approaches, Frayn inventively satirizes the scientists' dehumanizing technological obsessions. The Russian Interpreter (1966) is a cold war comedy featuring an English research student who is acting as interpreter for a Moscow businessman. The futuristic fantasy A Very Private Life (1968) imagines a civilization in which the isolation of the individual is complete. All domestic needs are supplied directly by advanced technology, all emotional experiences produced or relieved by universally available drugs. Sweet Dreams (1973) opens with the death of its trendy architect hero in a car accident. He finds himself in a brilliantly imagined afterlife that resembles a slickly celestial version of his former affluent existence. The main character in Now You Know (1992) is a charmer with a questionable past who heads an organization that campaigns for freedom of information. Personal secrets and devious behaviour are typical of everyone involved in the movement. Headlong (1999, Booker shortlisted) is a comic novel revolving around an art historian who identifies a Bruegel and tries to separate it from its unwitting owner.

Malcolm Bradbury, J. L. Carr, Kingsley Amis  DH

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