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Wilson, Angus

(British, 1913–91)

Born in Bexhill, Sussex, Angus Wilson was educated at Oxford and served in intelligence during the war. In addition to his career as a leading post-war novelist, he worked in the reading room of the British Library and from 1966 was Professor of Literature at East Anglia University. Begin with Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (1956), which brilliantly displays Wilson's sharply satirical lightness of touch. The complex plot and extensive cast of characters cover four decades of English middle-class life. The novel centres on an alienated professor of history who belatedly searches for the truth behind an academic fraud. In Hemlock and After (1952) famous writer Bernard Sands calls into question the value of his life's achievement as his attempt to found a libertarian writers’ colony fails. Further stress results from his decision to accept his homosexuality and he is driven to breakdown and death. The Old Men at the Zoo (1961) is a satire of bureaucratic attitudes set in an imaginary near future. Disagreements among administrators delay plans to set up an animal reservation while the country is gradually engulfed in European war. The delusions behind both scientific and spiritual searches for easy access to human happiness are satirized in As if by Magic (1973). Hamo Langmuir, who has developed a new type of rice, and his god-daughter Alexandra Grant, who seeks mystical enlightenment, travel together to the East. Their self-centred expectations founder when he finds his rice cannot relieve food shortages and she discovers her guru is a phoney.

Anthony Powell, J. B. Priestley, Evelyn Waugh  DH

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Tr-Z)