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Paul Scott (Paul Mark Scott) Biography

(1920–78), (Paul Mark Scott), Country Life, The Times, Johnnie Sahib, A Male Child, The Bender

British novelist, born in north London, educated at Winchmore Hill Collegiate School, the second son of a family of freelance commercial artists. Despite early ambitions as a poet he began training in accountancy (passing exams with ease thanks to his photographic memory). In 1940 he was called up to work in the British Intelligence Department in London, and in 1943 he was transferred to the Indian Army, arriving just after the critical ‘Quit India’ resolution of 1942. The three years he spent as an Officer Cadet in India, Burma, and Malaya fuelled his writing for the following two decades. On his return to London he was employed in publishing and subsequently as a literary agent while also working on his own writing. He published a volume of his poetry in 1941, wrote several radio plays, was a regular reviewer for Country Life, and contributed articles to The Times. His first published novel, Johnnie Sahib (1952), is a war story concerning the tensions within a small group of men, the personnel of an air supply unit of the kind in which Scott himself served. Seven novels rapidly followed, four of them with Indian settings. The exceptions are A Male Child (1956), an account of a man's quest for a purpose in life after he is invalided out of the war in the East and rejected by his wife; The Bender (1963), a picaresque comedy about a drifter with money troubles; and The Corrida at San Feliu (1964), an intricate book, set in Spain and exploring the novelistic process of making fiction from reality. The latter novel introduced the fragmentary narrative which Scott would subsequently employ in The Raj Quartet.

The novels set in India show a gradual broadening of Scott's canvas from wartime India to the entire history of the Anglo-Indian relationship. The Alien Sky (1953), The Mark of the Warrior (1958), and The Chinese Love Pavilion (1960) were followed by The Birds of Paradise (1962), which explores the mercurial nature of the past and suggests the genesis of Scott's later interest in multiple perspectives. In 1964 Scott returned to India, at the expense of Heinemann, his publishers, living with an Indian family and researching Anglo-Indian history. This visit bore copious fruit in the creation of The Raj Quartet, the complex and exhaustive fictional survey of India under British rule until Partition in 1947, of which the individual novels are The Jewel in the Crown (1966), The Day of the Scorpion (1968), The Towers of Silence (1971), and A Division of the Spoils (1975). Scott's final work was Staying On (1977; Booker Prize), a poignant coda to The Raj Quartet concerning an English couple, Colonel ‘Tusker’ Smalley and his wife Lucy, who live out their isolated retirement in India after Independence; their existence in the crumbling annexe of Smith's Hotel is a sad final comment on the long relationship between Britain and India. Scott returned again to India in 1972 on a British Council lecture tour. In 1976 and 1977 he was Visiting Lecturer at Tulsa University, Oklahoma. He was a retiring man who never sought publicity, and despite a warm reception for The Jewel in the Crown, Scott barely figured on the literary scene until Staying On won the Booker Prize in 1977. He was too ill to receive the prize in person, and died from cancer less than six months later. In 1981 Staying On was adapted for television, and in 1984 The Raj Quartet was successfully televised as The Jewel in the Crown.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography