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Paul West Biography

(1930– ), I, Said the Sparrow, Colonel Mint, Gala, Words for a Deaf Daughter

American critic, theoretician, poet, and novelist, born in Eckington, Derbyshire, educated at the University of Birmingham and Oxford University. While his autobiography, I, Said the Sparrow (1963), offers an affectionate portrait of his early life in England, he has a particular affection for the USA where he became a resident and held academic posts at several universities including Penn State. A unifying strain to West's work is his belief in the need for experimentation. In such experimental work as Colonel Mint (1972), which explores the role of imagination in a rational world, and Gala (1976), a fictional sequel to Words for a Deaf Daughter, West probes the limits of genre, art, and the imagination. He has written in a variety of genres and subjects, ranging from the New York City underworld in Tenement of Clay (1965), to Nazi Germany in The Very Rich Hours of Count Von Stauffenberg (1980), and to his own relationship with his deaf daughter, Mandy, in Words for a Deaf Daughter (1969). In his novel Love's Mansion (1992), West returns to personal history, and to England, in a story of two lovers based on his parents. West's influences include Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sartre, while his critical works often focus on Latin American writers, such as Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa. The Universe, and Other Fictions (1988) is a collection of short stories. His nonfiction works include The Growth of the Novel (1959), Byron and the Spoiler's Art (1960), The Modern Novel (2 volumes; 1963, 1965), and Sheer Fiction (2 volumes; 1987, 1991).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robert Penn Warren Biography to Kenneth White Biography