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George Friel Biography

(1910–75), The Bank of Time, The Boy Who Wanted Peace, Grace and Miss Partridge

Scottish novelist, born and brought up in Glasgow, where he worked as a teacher. Of a poor background, Friel portrayed the lives of the underprivileged and uncharted, and his work is dense with the life of the poorer districts of Glasgow. He published The Bank of Time (1959), The Boy Who Wanted Peace (1964), Grace and Miss Partridge (1969), Mr. Alfred MA (1972), and An Empty House (1975). Of these, his reputation rests on Mr. Alfred MA whose central character is the unprepossessing schoolmaster, Mr Alfred, who is a failure. His ambitions of being a poet are wholly misplaced. He finds compensation in furtive association with tarts and in drinking, until he becomes obsessed by a girl pupil. The novel develops against an impressionistically rendered Glasgow, at a time of worsening poverty and the hideous escalation of gang life among the city youths. The novel enters the Scottish tradition of veiled use of the supernatural to resolve its complex themes: in his breakdown Mr Alfred encounters in an abandoned building the sinister Tod who, obviously, is one version of the Devil who has haunted Scottish fiction from James Hogg onwards.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso