Breezy, proficient biography of the versatile English novelist, journalist, and critic, by former TLS editor Treglown (Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green, 2001, etc.).
A mostly self-taught writer whose life spanned the 20th century, Pritchett (1900–97) had an enormous influence on his contemporaries, especially with his travel writing from Ireland and Spain and his probing literary criticism. He was born to a working-class family in Ipswich; his charming rogue father, a Christian Scientist, was always evading creditors, and his mother was emotionally fragile. After a stint at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, Pritchett honed his craft largely by experience, moving from an early job sorting skins at the docks at Bermondsey (Nothing Like Leather) to working in Paris as a glue salesman, then as a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, which took him to Ireland (Clare Drummer), Spain (Marching Spain), then Boston. “A small man with big appetites,” he was driven and prolific, constantly writing short stories in between doing journalism in order to support his growing family: his first marriage ended in divorce, while his second to Dorothy Roberts endured happily for the rest of his life, resulting in epistolary exuberance and several children. Gradually, Pritchett came to accept he wasn’t primarily a novelist, and during WWII his essays for the New Statesman and his more than 80 talks for the BBC provided his audience with a literary education. The success of his last novel, Mr. Beluncle (1951), a hilarious and sorrowful take on ordinariness, led to travel to America, writing for publications such as The New Yorker, and later work for PEN. Treglown has conducted innumerable interviews to flesh out his subject; however, Sir Victor’s massive work receives glancing explication, especially the latter biographies of Balzac, Turgenev, and Chekhov.
Limns the public man rather than delving too deeply inward.