Friday, February 20, 2009

Edward Upward

I missed the news when it was announced, but the writer Edward Upward died a week ago at the age of 105.

As his Daily Telegraph obituary explained, Upward:
was a leading figure among the Oxbridge generation of Thirties writers, whose early work was described by Stephen Spender as representing a “further peak” beyond W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.
Upward later career never began to achieve enjoyed by his contemporaries. He sacrificed his literary gifts to Communist orthodoxy and, like many Marxists, spent his life teaching in private schools.

But there was a happy ending to his life. As the Guardian said:

in 1994 Upward enjoyed a literary revival at the age of 90 when three parallel works - a revised edition of Journey to the Border, a first collection of the original Mortmere Stories with Isherwood, and a new volume of stories, drily titled An Unmentionable Man, were issued by Enitharmon Press.

This resurgence was latterly sustained by three further short-story collections from Enitharmon: The Scenic Railway (1997), The Coming Day (2000) and A Renegade in Springtime (2003), as well as a memoir each of Auden (Remembering the Earlier Auden, 1998) and Isherwood (Christopher Isherwood: Notes in Remembrance of a Friendship, 1996), his co-conspirators from the 1930s.

In 2005, he was awarded the Benson Medal of the Royal Society of Literature and was elected a fellow of the society. At the close of Upward's long and difficult career, it is curious to reflect that half of his published titles appeared in the final 15 years of his life.

And I must find someone else to head my list of people you probably think died years ago but are really still alive.


Anonymous said...

Is Alix Mortmere related?

Frank Little said...

Like you, I was surprised to find that he had survived into the 21st century. I knew of him through reading Isherwood, who shared Spender's high opinion of Upward. My rather plebeian response to reading one of Upward's short stories was: where's the beef?