PAUL SCOTT by Hilary Spurling


A Life of the Author of the Raj Quartet
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 The 1983 TV mini-series The Jewel in the Crown, adapted from The Raj Quartet, exposed millions on both sides of the Atlantic to the work of British novelist Scott, who had died five years previously. Now, this leisurely, sensitive biography, published last year in Great Britain, explains how this sprawling epic of Britain's ``greasy and evasive'' departure from India resulted from Scott's roiling inner turmoil. Most of Scott's career-the discovery of his self-described ``extended metaphor'' (India) while in the military, apprentice poetry, plays, and novels, skillful work as a literary agent, and plunge into full-time writing at the age of 40-was not the stuff of high drama. Fortunately, Spurling (Ivy, 1984)-a literary critic for the Daily Telegraph of London-concentrates on the deep divide between his romantic aesthete and Puritan breadwinner sides. Scott's taciturn father, a commercial artist, arbitrarily decided to make his 14-year-old son an accountant (a drama of displacement echoed in the tragedy of Hari Kumar, the British- educated Indian schoolboy of The Raj Quartet); later, an army incident during WW II caused Scott to repress his homosexual inclinations. Spurling sympathetically outlines the toll taken on this charming, considerate man in producing his masterpiece: financial insecurity, alcoholism, withdrawal, and alienation of wife and daughters. Success-a happy teaching stint at the Univ. of Tulsa, the Booker Aware for Staying On after years of neglect by British critics-came only months before his death at the age of 58 from cancer. Despite its slow, ruminative pace, a rewarding account of the man behind one of the masterpieces of 20th-century British literature. Scott has found a generous and insightful biographer. (Photographs-not seen.)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02938-7
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991


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