Alan Hollinghurst Biography
(1954– ), Times Literary Supplement, Confidential Chats with Boys, The Swimming Pool Library, flâneur, The Folding Star
British novelist, born in Stroud, educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. He has taught at the universities of Oxford and London, and has worked on the staff of the Times Literary Supplement. His first published work was a collection of poems, Confidential Chats with Boys (1982). Hollinghurst's highly praised and controversial novels are, on one level, depictions of gay life in contemporary Europe, replete with graphic descriptions of casual sexual transactions; on another level, they grapple with the nature of sexual desire and artistic creation, and the complex relationship between the two. In The Swimming Pool Library (1988), which is set in a vividly evoked underground London of bars, pools, and discotheques, the handsome young narrator is a modern flâneur who finds, amidst his relentless cruising, the time to befriend a harried aristocrat who represents an older generation of more diffident and yet more daring homosexuals. The novel's casual juxtaposition of formal, allusive prose with its transgressive subject matter did much to rescue gay fiction from generic ghettos. The Folding Star (1994), ambitious in its range and autumnal in tone, is set in the gay milieu of a Belgian city; here, a somewhat less attractive narrator pursues a similar search for love—the object of his desire is a 17-year-old boy. In this novel, described as a triptych, Hollinghurst explores the fine line between lust and love, returns to his narrator's past to examine the sense of loss that haunts him, and introduces the parallel theme of a Belgian symbolist painter's infatuation with an actress. An element of mystery prevails during the proceedings. While the influence of Firbank is evident in Hollinghurst's first novel, his second ironically evokes Mann.