V. S. Pritchett (1900-1997) - VSP as he was affectionately known - was the greatest British short-story writer of the twentieth century, and one of its liveliest and most humane critics.
The story of his own life was extraordinary, full of comedy and pathos and eccentricities. He may seem the quintessential quiet Englishman, overlooked in a corner, but as Jeremy Treglown says in this brilliant new life, he was always 'a man in disguise'. He was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, in 1900, to a mother who was illiterate, but a natural story-teller and a larger-than life, Micawber-like father, whose catastrophes kept the family always on the move.
At sixteen he left school to work in the leather trade, and at twenty, just after World War I, daringly moved to Paris and became a journalist, first in Ireland, then in Spain - travelling the country with his first wife Evelyn, an Irish actress, but agonisingly falling in love his second, Dorothy. Pritchett's stories map the changing lives of apparently 'ordinary people' from the 1930s to the 1990s, but he was an influential literary editor of the New Statesman, and until his death in 1997 his life also charted the literary scene across the years, his many friendships ranging from Yeats and Sean O'Casey, Orwell, Graham Greene and Stephen Spender, to Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. This vibrant new biography, drawing on a mass of unpublished letters and vivid journals, brings our hidden 'English Chekov' to life: quirky yet robust, melancholy yet hilarious, and often surprisingly passionate.