Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Edward Upward

He was 105 years old, I'd never heard of him until he died, but now I'm dying to read his work.

I just read obituaries in The Guardian and the New York Times of British writer Edward Upward, who died earlier this month. He was, I've learned, a contemporary and friend of Auden, Spender and Isherwood, and a gifted writer whose work, I'm inferring with the sort of peeking between the lines that is second nature to a red reader, never received the attention it deserved because it was brazenly partisan on the side of socialism. Upward was a communist. According to the Times, "Leonard and Virginia Woolf published his first book but rejected his second, saying there was too much Communism in it." So okay, it's right there in the lines, not between them.

There's much here, about his life, his politics, and his art, that intrigues me. Not least the fact that he eventually left the Communist Party, if the Guardian account is to be believed, because it was veering too far to the right. Some of his work, including what sounds like it may be his masterpiece, the 1938 novel Journey to the Border, is still available and in print. I'm also drawn to one of his later works, a 1977 novel with a wonderful title that I really relate to: No Home But the Struggle. I'm going to try to get my hands onto one or both.

UPDATE: I just took out Journey to the Border from the university library. Also nabbed Spiral Ascent, the trilogy of which No Home But the Struggle is the final part. Both are literally caked with dust. Neither has ever been checked out before. Kind of puts in perspective my difficult quest to get my novel published--why all the angst when no one reads communist fiction even if it is published?

Well, I'm reading these. Or giving them a shot, anyway. I have no idea whether I'll like Upward's writing. Hope I do.