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Rosalind Belben Biography

(1941– ), The Limit, Is Beauty Good, Dreaming of Dead People, Choosing Spectacles

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British novelist, born in Dorset, the daughter of a naval officer. She is one of a handful of women novelists engaged in experimenting with fictional form in the European tradition. The author of several novels including The Limit (1974), Belben received the recognition she deserves only with the publication of Is Beauty Good (1989) and the reappearance of an earlier work, Dreaming of Dead People (1979). The former, which defies categorization, is a series of texts, prose poems, or meditations on the loss of the natural world. No one narrative voice unifies the work; rather, Belben uses polyphony to fine effect in her depiction of a decaying but recognizable world. Comparisons with Beckett are both appropriate and marginal; though the wit, irony, and bitter poetry of Belben's authorial voice does bear some resemblance to his, her vision is ultimately life-affirming. Dreaming of Dead People is a self-mocking confessional novel somewhat in the mode of Eva Figes; alternately wry and poetic, structured around a core of fable (Robin Hood), the novel has a ribald, earthy attitude to sex and loneliness sometimes lacking in the works of Belben's fellow experimentalists, and is not dissimilar to the work of the mature Edna O'Brien. Choosing Spectacles (1995) is more conventional in both style and structure than Belben's recent fictions, and yet characteristic of its author. Its central figure, a disaffected Eastern European, learns from his encounter with Europe, the Middle East, and Israel that politics and life yield no simple solutions.

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