BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Entertainment
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 13:21 GMT
Sir Malcolm Bradbury: Literature Man
Sir Malcolm Bradbury
Sir Malcolm Bradbury: Lack of elitism
Author, television scriptwriter and literary critic Sir Malcolm Bradbury was as famous for his teaching skills as for his own screenplays and novels.

Like his most famous character, the eponymous History Man, Sir Malcolm was committed to spreading a love for "serious" literature beyond intellectual circles, and paving the way for a new wave of British writing.

Sir Malcolm Bradbury
Writers fought to get on his creative writing MA course

He was determined that his 40-plus books of literary criticism would not be not befuddled by academic terms, and could be read by a wide audience.

Sir Malcolm's own lack of Úlitism was instilled at an early age. The son of a railwayman, he spent much of his childhood in Harrow, before the family returned north during World War II.

Attending West Bridgford Grammar School in Nottingham, Sir Malcolm suffered a heart condition that kept him off the sports field and in the library.

Such academic diligence cemented Sir Malcolm's love for literature and ensured that he was of the first generation of grammar school boys to enjoy higher education, in his case at the University of Leicester.

Armed with a first class degree and married to the librarian from Nottinghamshire County Library, he began his first full-time job at Hull University in 1959.

A conventional good read is usually a bad read

Sir Malcolm Bradbury

The same year, he wrote his first novel, Eating People is Wrong, and embarked on his parallel career of writer and teacher.

This and his other five novels, including this year's To The Hermitage, were all built on the solid foundation of his academic life.

The young professor, however, denied his stories were mere "campus novels", but instead "about intellectuals capable of irony, concerned with issues of change and liberation, the problems of humanism, and so might well have been in other settings".

TV adaption of The History Man
Anthony Sher as The History Man on television

His most significant contribution to the cause of British writing began in 1965 when, with Angus Wilson, he set up a creative writing MA course at the University of East Anglia.

His intention was to provide apprentice writers with a traditional academic environment.

His very first student there was Ian McEwan, author of Enduring Love and Amsterdam.

Kazuo Ishiguro was another prodigy to enjoy the fruits of Sir Malcolm's guidance. Both men went on to win the Booker Prize.

Indeed, the tutor helped so many fledgling writers find their voice that he was labelled "the creative writing man" and Oxbridge literati looked on this successful group as a "creative mafia".

He retired from teaching the course in 1995, and the now Poet Laureate Andrew Motion took over.

Sir Malcolm always found the energy to put his own pen to paper.

Sir Malcolm Bradbury receiving his knighthood
A knighthood this year for Sir Malcolm

As well as his own novels, he wrote successful television adaptations of such books as Tom Sharpe's Porterhouse Blue, Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm and Kingsley Amis's The Green Man.

Christopher Hampton adapted one of Sir Malcolm's own novels in 1981.

The tale of a radical and sexually predatory sociology teacher, The History Man, brought its author enduring celebrity beyond his academic circle.

Although his novel Rates of Exchange was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1982, Professor Bradbury became the chairman of the judges for the prize the following year.

This was fitting for a man steeped in a love for literature and words beyond his own fictional output.

Knighted this year, Sir Malcolm remained most celebrated for his influence on a generation of aspiring novelists. His name was synonymous with new British writing.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

28 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Writers pay tribute to Bradbury
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories