Author: Barry Unsworth
An incisive, intelligent and cumulatively intense story of the British colonial resort in the Himalayas, Kandahar, as- in 1947- the British prepare to leave in the face of the Hindustan-Pakistan dispute.
Here, in sharp detail, are those within the colony, the few too old to change, reluctant to leave their lives of privilege, the others, malicious, indecisive, apprehensive, who finally panic before the tribesmen rumored to be descending. Particularly, it is the story of Pearson, who comes to Kandahar in the last few days, falls in love with Elizabeth, who is blind and knows she will soon die, and of his regeneration as in action against the tribesmen, he loses the “”fear of Fear”” acquired in a concentration camp during the war, helps to secure safe passage for all…Holding, though perhaps for a market difficult to define.
About the author: Barry Unsworth was born in 1930 in a mining village in Durham, and he attended Stockton-on-Tees Grammar School and Manchester University, B.A., 1951.
From 1951-53, in the British Army, Royal Corps of Signals, he served and became second lieutenant.
A teacher and a novelist, Unsworth worked as a lecturer in English at Norwood Technical College, London, at University of Athens for the British Council, at University of Istanbul,Turkey for British Council, lived as a Writer in residence, Liverpool University, England, and also at Lund University, Sweden. He was a teacher at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, 1999.
Unsworth was twice married, to Valerie Moor, 1959 with whom he had three daughters (marriage dissolved, 1991), and to Aira Pohjanvaara-Buffa, 1992. In later years made his home in Umbria, Italy. He died in Perugia, at age 81, of lung cancer.
Unsworth’s first novel, The Partnership, was published in 1966 when he was 36. “…in my earlier novels, especially the two written in the early ’70s, The Hide and Mooncranker’s Gift, there was a baroque quality in the style, a density. The mood was grim, but the language was more figurative and more high-spirited. There was more delight in it, more self-indulgence, too. Among my earliest influences as a writer were the American novelists of the deep south, especially Eudora Welty, and some of that elated, grotesque comedy stayed with me.”
Other novels include Mooncranker’s Gift (1973) (winner of the Heinemann Award), Stone Virgin (1985), and Losing Nelson (1999). He counts William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers as his major influences.
Unsworth did not start to write historical fiction until his sixth novel, Pascali’s Island. Pascali’s Island (1980), the first of his novels to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is set on an unnamed Aegean island during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Reflecting on this shift, Unsworth explained: “Nowadays I go to Britain relatively rarely and for short periods; in effect, I have become an expatriate. The result has been a certain loss of interest in British life and society and a very definite loss of confidence in my ability to register the contemporary scene there – the kind of things people say, the styles of dress, the politics etc.– with sufficient subtlety and accuracy. So I have turned to the past. The great advantage of this, for a writer of my temperament at least, is that one is freed from a great deal of surface clutter. One is enabled to take a remote period and use it as a distant mirror (to borrow Barbara Tuchman’s phrase), and so try to say things about our human condition – then and now – which transcend the particular period and become timeless.” Pascali’s Island was adapted as a film by James Dearden, starring Charles Dance, Helen Mirren, and Ben Kingsley as the title character.
Morality Play, shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1995, is a murder mystery set in 14th-century England. It was adapted as a film, The Reckoning, starring Paul Bettany and Willem Dafoe.
“With time I have grown more sparing with the words. I think less of fire-works and flourishes. I try to get warmth and color through precision of language. This is more difficult, I think, which may be why I find writing novels so challenging and exacting.”
Heinemann Award for Literature, Royal Society of Literature, 1974, for Mooncranker’s Gift; Arts Council Creative Writing fellowship, Charlotte Mason College, 1978-79; literary fellow, Universities of Durham and Newcastle, 1983-84; Booker Prize (joint winner), 1992, for Sacred Hunger; honorary Litt.D., Manchester University, 1998. (less)