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Edward (Falaise) Upward Biography

london press isherwood enitharmon

Nationality: British. Born: Romford, Essex, 1903. Education: Repton School, Derby, 1917-21; Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Chancellors's medal for English verse), 1922-24, M.A. 1925. Career: Schoolmaster, 1928-62; Member of the Editorial Board, the Ploughshare, London, 1936-39. Lives in Sandown, Isle of Wight.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels

Journey to the Border. London, Hogarth Press, 1938; revised edition, London, Enitharmon Press, 1994; Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, Dufour Editions, 1994.

In the Thirties. London, Heinemann, 1962.

The Rotten Elements. London, Heinemann, 1969.

The Spiral Ascent (includes In the Thirties, The Rotten Elements, No Home But the Struggle). London, Heinemann, 1977.

Short Stories

The Night and Other Stories. London, Heinemann, 1967.

The Railway Accident and Other Stories. London, Heinemann, 1969.

The Mortmere Stories (with Christopher Isherwood). London, Enitharmon Press and Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, Dufour Editions, 1994.

The Scenic Railway. London, Enitharmon Press and Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, Dufour Editions, 1997.

Uncollected Short Story

"The Theft," in Colours of a New Day: Writing for South Africa, edited by Sarah Lefnau and Stephen Hayward. London, Lawrence and Wishart, and New York, Pantheon, 1990.

Poetry

Buddha. London, Cambridge University Press, 1924.

Other

An Unmentionable Man. London, Enitharmon Press, Dufour Editions, 1994.

Christopher Isherwood: Notes in Remembrance of a Friendship. London, Enitharmon, 1996.

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Manuscript Collection:

British Library, London.

Critical Studies:

The Destructive Element: A Study of Modern Writers and Beliefs by Stephen Spender, London, Cape, 1935, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1936; introduction by W.H. Sellers to The Railway Accident and Other Stories, 1969; article by Upward, in London Magazine, June 1969; Leben und Werk von Edward Upward by Dieter Mensen, unpublished thesis, Berlin, Free University, 1976; Aestheticism and Political Commitment in the Works of Edward Upward by Clarke Thayer, unpublished thesis, Tulsa, Oklahoma, University of Tulsa, 1981; History and Value by Frank Kermode, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

* * *

Edward Upward as a young writer in the 1930s achieved a great reputation, was indeed something of a legend, among a number of writers of his own age and younger. Christopher Isherwood told in Lions and Shadows how he and Upward (called Chalmers in Isherwood's book) at Cambridge invented a fantasy world they called Mortmere which paralleled and parodied the world about them. Mortmere seems to have been at once sinister and comic, partly surrealist and partly Gothic. That it had affinities with Auden's early poetry, influenced as it was by Freud, seems clear, and something of it seems to merge in the plays Isherwood wrote in collaboration with Auden, notably The Dog Beneath the Skin. Upward, however, overtly pursued the vein of fantasy in his fiction, but was even then politically committed in the cause of Marxism. The central character of Journey to the Border is a middle-class young man employed as a tutor in the house of a rich man; he is constantly struggling against the implications and ignominies of his position but is unable to resolve them. He is persuaded against his will to accompany his employer to a race-meeting. On the way, and while there, he experiences a series of hallucinations that mount in intensity and are the counterparts of the debate going on in his mind. By the end of the novel he is forced to realize that the only solution to this problem, the only way to reality, is for him to identify himself with the working-class struggle.

When the novel was first published, reviewers read the influence of Kafka into it. This is not much apparent now, if it ever existed. Upward's novel is much less complex than those in simple allegory. Nevertheless, the voltage of imaginative work is admirably sustained. It remains a brilliant experimental novel of a very unusual kind.

Upward published nothing for twenty-five years, and then in 1962 published In the Thirties (followed by The Rotten Elements and, as a complete trilogy incorporating No Home But the Struggle, The Spiral Ascent). These novels are based, it is impossible not to think, on the author's own life. In the Thirties describes the stages by which a young middle-class man comes to Communism. In a sense, the theme is that of Journey to the Border, but the treatment is entirely different. Fantasy has been replaced by literal realism, which is also the vein of later volumes of the trilogy. In The Rotten Elements the hero of the earlier novel, a school teacher now married, finds himself compelled in the years immediately after the war to leave the Communist Party, not because he has lost his political faith but because for him and his wife the British Communist Party, under the influence of Moscow, has deviated from Marxism-Leninism. No Home But the Struggle shows them recommitted to the campaign for nuclear disarmament. The trilogy lacks the literary interest of Journey to the Border, but it has an anguish of its own and a documentary quality which suggests that, though it may not be read in the future for its artistic value, it will be essential reading for scholars concerned with the role of the Communist party in Britain.

—Walter Allen

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