Alan Sillitoe (1928 – )

Novelist and playwright from Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England. Born in 1928 to an illiterate tannery labourer, Sillitoe's upbringing was marked by the 1930s depression.

He started working at the age of 14 in different factories in Nottingham. After a few years he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as wireless operator.

After being stationed abroad in Malaya, he returned home to discover that he had tuberculosis. He was put in hospital for six months where he really discovered books and literature, and was awarded pension at the age of 21.

In 1952 Alan eloped to France with Ruth Fainlight, a married American 19-year-old poet. In their self-imposed exile Sillitoe started to write stories and poems, sending them off to magazines in England, France and America. Later he moved on to Majorca in Spain.

A very important moment in Sillitoe's writing career occurred in 1955 when he was given encouragement by Robert Graves after having showed the latter a novel. This inspired him to start on a novel based in Nottingham called "The Adventures of Arthur Seyton", later changed to "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning".

Faced with rejection by several publishers he decided to go to London to try the more personal approach. One publisher showed interest if Sillitoe would rewrite the novel slightly, something he refused. Instead he and Ruth moved back to Majorca, and later to a shared apartment in Alicante.

Out of money they saw no other way than to move back to England on borrowed money. Rejection continued until publishing house W.H. Allen showed interest in "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", and wanted an option on two more books and the rights to sell it to America. Mark Goulden, who was the first publisher to print Dylan Thomas, gave him a £90 advance.

"Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" was published in October 1958, and received great critical acclaim as well as becoming an instant best seller. Although labelled as angry young man and working-class writer, Sillitoe saw his work as neither, but rather straightforward stories about people and their everyday struggle.

Harry Saltzman decided to produce a film based on the book with Sillitoe to write the script. Karel Reiz directed with Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton. The film was a huge hit all over England and even managed to make a profit.

After this things started to turn more and more in Sillitoe's favour. He married Ruth in London. A previously rejected story, "The General" was published, and a movie was made from the idea starring Charlton Heston. He published "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", which won the Hawthornden Prize, and was later turned into a film starring Tom Courtenay.

Alan Sillitoe has since written over 30 publications of prose, poetry and drama.

In later years his writing has become less openly political, although he has stayed highly political himself. In conjunction with the 2001 UK General Election he was quoted as saying:

”There was a time when a working man could vote Labour in some hope that they might represent his interests – now Labour has their own political and financial interests and to hell with the rest of us. Well to hell with them, too”.

A selection of Alan Sillitoe's work:

  • Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, 1958 - (film 1960, directed by Karel Reisz)
  • The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, 1959 - (film 1962, directed by Tony Richardson)
  • The Rats, And Other Poems, 1960
  • The General, 1960
  • Key To The Door, 1961
  • The Ragman's Daughter, 1963 - (film 1963)
  • A Falling Out Of Love, And Other Poems, 1964
  • Road To Volgograd, 1965
  • The Death Of William Poster, 1965
  • A Tree On Fire, 1967
  • The City Adventures Of Marmalade Jim, 1967
  • Love In The Environs Of Voronezh, 1968
  • Guzman, Go Home, 1968
  • Shaman And Other Poems, 1968
  • Alan Sillitoe Selection, 1968
  • Lope de Vega: All Citizens are Soldiers, 1969 (translation)
  • A Start In Life, 1970
  • This Foreign Field, 1970
  • Travels In Nihilon, 1971
  • Poems, 1971
  • The Ragman's Daughter, 1972 (play from his story)
  • Raw Material, 1972
  • Shaman And Other Poems, 1973
  • Men, Women, And Children, 1973
  • Barbarians, 1974
  • Storm, 1974
  • The Flame Of Life, 1974
  • Raw Material, 1974
  • Mountains And Caverns, 1975 (essays, among others of D.H. Lawrence)
  • The Saxon Shore Way, 1975 (with F. Godwin)
  • The Widower's Son, 1976
  • Pit Strike, 1977
  • Big John And The Stars, 1977
  • 3 Plays, 1978
  • The Incredible Fencing Fleas, 1978
  • The Storyteller, 1979
  • Snow On The North Side Of Lucifer, 1979
  • Marmalade Jim At The Farm, 1980
  • The Second Chance And Other Stories, 1981
  • Her Victory, 1982
  • Sun Before Departure, 1982
  • The Lost Flying Boat, 1983
  • Down From The Hill, 1984
  • Marmalade Jim And The Fox, 1984
  • Life Goes On, 1985
  • Tides And Stone Walls, 1986
  • Every Day Of The Week, 1987
  • Three Poems, 1988
  • Out Of The Whirlpool, 1988
  • The Open Door, 1989
  • Lost Loves, 1990
  • Leonard's War, 1991
  • Collected Poems, 1993
  • Snowstop, 1993
  • Collected Stories, 1995
  • Leading The Blind, 1995
  • Life Without Armour, 1995 (autobiography)
  • Alligator Playground, 1997
  • The Broken Chariot, 1998
  • Leading The Blind: A Century Of Guide Book Travel 1815-1914, 1999

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