April 26, 2010

UK: British writer Alan Sillitoe, the ‘angry young man’, dies in London aged 82

. LONDON, England / The Times / Arts & Entertainment / Books / April 26, 2010 By Lucy Bannerman Alan Sillitoe, whose novels gave a voice to the disillusionment and restlessness of the English working-class, has died. He was 82. The writer, born in Nottingham, passed away at Charing Cross Hospital in West London, his family said yesterday. More than 50 years after his characters raged against the realities of life in postwar Britain in works such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, Sillitoe’s son, David, said he hoped that his father would be remembered for his contribution to literature. Sillitoe’s breakthrough novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning became a film and made a star of Albert Finney. The film of his next work, The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Runner, starred Tom Courtney. Alan Sillitoe in 2008. He will be remembered for his fearless social critique Both are regarded as “kitchen sink” classics and Sillitoe was seen as one of the pioneering forces of the so-called Angry Young Men movement, alongside John Osborne, John Braine, David Storey, John Wain, Arnold Wesker and Stan Barstow. In an interview with The Times in 2008, marking the fiftieth anniversary of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, he said: “My book went to a lot of working-class people. I saw a copy of the book in a library once and it was battered and full of stickers because it had been borrowed so much. “We [the Angry Young Men] didn’t really know one another because we were all busy with our own writing, but I suppose we were kicking down doors.” Sillitoe left school at 14 and worked in the local Raleigh bicycle factory in Nottingham before serving in the RAF. His father, an illiterate and often unemployed labourer, was a heavy drinker who routinely beat Sillitoe’s mother. At 20, Sillitoe contracted tuberculosis and spent a year in an RAF hospital where he read voraciously and began to write. He credits this period of convalescence as the catalyst for his writing career. He became a prolific playwright, poet and social critic, producing about one work a year, for more than 50 years. His career had a slow start, and he struggled for years before being published. He later reflected: “I think all those years of writing before being published had taught me to write with precision. “I didn’t want to indulge in purple passages and overwrite and use too many words. I knew that the voice and tone was just right. I had found my own way, which is just as well.” His novels focused on the frustration of “working-class heroes” over the lack of employment for people returning from military service. Sillitoe also published poetry and children’s books, but it is fearless social critique for which he is most likely to be remembered. “Once a rebel, always a rebel. You can’t help being one,” reflects Arthur Seaton, protagonist of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. “And it’s best to be a rebel so as to show ’em it don’t pay to try to do you down ... Factories sweat you to death, labour exchanges talk you to death, insurance and income tax offices milk money from your wage packets and rob you to death. “And if you’re still left with a tiny bit of life in your guts after all this boggering about, the army calls you up and you get shot to death." [rc] Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd