Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ten Greatest Dead Expat Writers

What is it about leaving the home of your birth and writing a book? The romance of new cultures? Cheaper living costs? bohemian sensibilities? Whatever it is moving away seems to remove writing blocks and sets an artist free. I've picked ten of my favorite expat authors who are no longer with us.

10) Although Joseph Conrad is considered one of the best English novelists he did not actually learn to speak English until he was 21. Conrad was born in Poland and orphaned at the age of 11. He joined the French merchant navy at 16 and spent much of his early years on the high seas. At many points in his life, he became involved in illegal activities (such as gunrunning) and was often embroiled in political intrigue.

9) George Orwell. Born in India and came of age as a young policeman in Burma. Down and out in Paris and London. George was often happiest away from home. A great writer and a great mind Orwell is also known as one of the greatest essayists of the twentieth century.

8) Vladimir Nabokov. Forced to flee the Bolshevik revolution Nabokov moved to Cambridge and then Berlin, and then Paris. As the Nazis moved in closer he jumped on a ship to the USA where he penned the classic Lolita. One of the great novelists of the 20th cent, Nabokov was an extraordinarily imaginative writer, often experimenting with the form of the novel. Although his works are frequently obscure and puzzling—filled with grotesque incidents, word games, and literary allusions

7) Henry Miller. The grumpy old man of letters found solace in Paris for ten years before retreating to his isolated Big Sur home. "All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience."

6) Graham Greene. Travelled to what he called the worlds wildest and most remote places before finally settling near Lake Geneva. His observations on south Esat Asia have only been matched by modern writers such as Christopher G. Moore.

5) Anthony Burgess. Taught English in a Malaya classroom where he penned his Asian trilogy before being shipped back to England with a suspected brain tumor where he wrote A Clockwork Orange, reviewed books, and became a celebrity.

4) William Burroughs. Shot his wife in Mexico and fled to Tangiers where he hit the pharmacia for synthetic dope and hammered out Naked Lunch in the Socco Chico before landing at the Beat Hotel Paris. In Paris the Olympia Press published the nightmarish visions that became a canon of the counter-culture 20th century revolution. He returned to the states a cult legend in his sixties.

3) James Joyce. Emigrated in his early twenties to Zurich, Austro-Hungry and then Paris. This modernist legend lived in self-imposed exile his entire life, yet strangely only wrote about his native Dublin.

2) Somerset Maugham. Highest paid author during the 1930s, Maugham travelled to the pacific islands to research his novel on artist Gauguin. Wrote of the isolation and madness of the British colonials in the Far East.

1)Ernest Hemingway. As a young man formed part of the Parisian Lost Generation. Nobel-prize winner and legendary author spent many months shooting game in Africa and his later days in Cuba. Hemingway was a true expat at heart and some would argue that his spare economic writing style is the greatest prose ever published.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Patrick Hamilton

Hamilton was born in Sussex. He Grew up in a succession of rooming houses along the south coast. His father was a Barrister, an alcoholic and a terrible writer. Hamilton left school at seventeen and began to work as a stage hand and sometimes actor. He wrote his first novel at the age of nineteen; a Dickensian tale called Monday Morning, but it wasn't until The Midnight Bell that he began to really find his stride. Hamilton wrote about the great British pub. Pick up trilogy - Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky and you can smell the beer-soaked carpet and the musky cigar smoke. Recognize the characters that gather in taverns and plot and plan and drinking away their troubles. Hamilton wrote about the pleasure and the pains of alcohol, which he was addicted to all his life.

In 1929 something dramatic happened in Hamilton's life. He became famous. His play Rope successful both sides of the Atlantic and later made into a movie directed by Hitchcock. Three years later, and at the peak of his career Hamilton was knocked down by a car, crippled and disfigured he sunk further into the bottle. He was already a heavy-drinker and now became reliant on whiskey to function.

In 1941 Hamilton's Hangover Square appeared. Probably his finest work and one of the greatest ever fictionalized studies of Earl's Court London and the mental deterioration of the human mind. Sadly this book was not given the recognition it deserved and Hamilton is in danger of slipping under the radar in terms of twentieth century literature. This would be a shame for Hamilton is one of the most underrated writers I've ever read.

Hamilton left London during the war and settled in Henley-on-Thames, a small town which inspired his later work. He died in 1962. leaving behind a number of unfinished manuscripts. One or two of his novels have remained in print with penguin, but most titles are out of print and difficult to find.