Muriel Spark


October 17, 2021

Dame Muriel Spark, DBE (born February 1, 1918 in Edinburgh; died April 13, 2006 in Florence; born Muriel Sarah Camberg) was a British writer. Together with Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, she is one of the British writers who converted to Catholicism. After Greene's death in 1991, she was repeatedly referred to as the greatest British writer alive. She established her reputation with the 1961 novel The heyday of Miss Jean Brodie, to which the magazine The New Yorker devoted an entire issue. This novel is still regarded as a classic of English-language literature in the 20th century. The British newspaper The Guardian included the novel in its 2009 list of 1000 must-read novels. Time selected it as one of the top 100 English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005, and in 2015 82 international literary critics and scholars selected it as one of the most important British novels.


Muriel Spark was born to a Jewish father and an Anglican mother. She was the second child, her brother Philip was a little more than five years older. The place of birth was the parents' small rented apartment at 160 Brunsfield Place, in the Morningside District of Edinburgh, a working-class district. Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jews who immigrated to Britain in the late 19th century. Her father, Bernard "Barney" Camberg, who was born in Great Britain, had trained as an engine mechanic, but was a worker for the North British Rubber Company until he retired at the age of 70 due to a lack of suitable positions. Her mother Sarah "Cissy" Bamberg, née Uezzell, had been brought up as a Christian as a child, but married him in a synagogue. To supplement her husband's salary, Cissy took on lodgers during Spark's early childhood. Cissy was a good-looking, serene woman who cared about her appearance. However, she was also addicted to alcohol. At first she drank small amounts of port wine every day, but ended up drinking a bottle of Madeira a day. When Spark was nine years old, her grandmother Adelaide was added to the family and from then on she shared the bedroom with Spark. Adelaide was 73 at the time, still physically and mentally fit. However, three years before her death, she suffered two strokes and was in need of care. Spark looked after the grandmother and her mother together. Muriel Sparks biographer Martin Stannard grants the grandmother a great influence on Spark. Adelaide had advocated women's suffrage early on and led a largely independent life. Stannard believes that the example of Muriel's grandmother formed the image of the independent artist who is isolated and classified as strange by a male-dominated environment. Adelaide lived in the family for a little over six years, she died on August 10, 1933.Barney and Cissy both valued their children well and, despite the limited family income, took it upon themselves to have the children educated in private schools that were subject to fees . Spark was educated at James Gillespie's High School for Girls in Edinburgh's Marchmont neighborhood. It was not one of Edinburgh's best schools, but it had a good reputation and some of the students went on to university. However, this does not apply to Muriel. She did well enough in school to win a scholarship, but after finishing school she attended courses in business correspondence at Heriot-Watt College. Literature hadn't played a role in Muriel Spark's family. The mother read no more than simple novels for women, the father the sports page of the Tagesz

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