From the Writers & Company Archives: Muriel Spark

This summer, as part of Writers & Company's 20th anniversary celebration, the weekly podcast will feature some of the best shows from the show's archives. We hope you'll enjoy this opportunity to hear these programs that haven't been available as a podcast before.

Every week in July and August, CBC Books will bring you the Writers & Company podcast, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.

This week's Writers & Company podcast features Eleanor's 1999 interview with Dame Muriel Spark. The author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori, among many other books, talks about her life and work, and her career as an expatriate writer in Italy. She died in 2006 at age 88.

This interview originally aired on September 19, 1999.

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Muriel Spark grew up in Edinburgh, the daughter of a Scottish Jewish father and English Protestant mother. This was a world she lovingly described in her 1993 autobiography, Curriculum Vitae. At 19, she left home to marry and live in what was then Southern Rhodesia. After her son was born and her marriage ended, she moved back to England, and worked in London as an editor and biographer in the literary-publishing world that she often recreated in her fiction, in novels such as A Far Cry from Kensington and Loitering with Intent.

After winning The Observer short story competition in 1951, Spark began her career as a novelist. Her first big success was in 1959 with Memento Mori, followed by The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1961.

But since 1962, Muriel Spark lived away from England — first in New York, then in Rome and then in Tuscany, in a former rectory attached to a deconsecrated church just above the walled village of Oliveto. Here, Spark would write 16 more novels, solidifying her role in literature as "one of this century's finest creators of comic-metaphysical entertainment," as the New York Times put it.

Spark passed away in 2006, but her rich body of work will live on for years to come.

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark

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"Romantic, heroic, comic and tragic, unconventional schoolmistress Jean Brodie has become an iconic figure in post-war fiction. Her glamour, freethinking ideas and manipulative charm hold dangerous sway over her girls at the Marcia Blaine Academy — the 'creme de la creme' — who become the Brodie Set, introduced to a privileged world of adult games that they will never forget."

Read more at Penguin Canada.

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