The Girl I Left Behind Me by Muriel Spark is a story of a girl’s life, shaped by her experiences in the South. Born in Scotland, Spark lived in Southern Africa for seven years after leaving home at the age of nineteen. During this time, she faced racism and tough living conditions. She was also left alone with her son, who was in boarding school. The journey back to Scotland was arduous, with her son being cold and hungry.
Dame Muriel’s love-hate relationship with Africa
Dame Muriel Spark’s love-hate relationship with Africa is as complex as the country itself. She was intimately involved in the politics of British imperialism, and her writings reveal an ambivalent encounter with the continent. Apart from racism, colonialism was also accompanied by slavery. The underlying history of empire has been largely ignored in our modern world, but an awareness of the history and the consequences of empire is critical for justice and reparation.
Spark had no illusions about the colonists’ brutality. Her observations on life in Africa taught her to be a keen observer. She also learned the value of silence, and gained an insight into a world of casual cruelty. In her Curriculum Vitae, Spark includes many anecdotes revealing the prejudices that still exist in some African countries. For example, Africans were often beaten to submission, but a public outcry in England stopped the cruel practice.
When Muriel Spark arrives in Southern Rhodesia, she is a young woman of nineteen. She is on a mission, but she is confronted by the country’s divisions, including the sharpest between husband and wife. Nevertheless, she is compelled to follow her literary destiny. Along the way, she meets Duncan, a young Scottish doctor from Aberdeen. He is faced with similar challenges.
The use of racist terms in Spark’s writings is not a new issue. Several of her early poems have an African theme. Amidst the romance between Spark and the poet and editor Howard Sergeant in the late 1940s, Spark wrote verses laced with Rhodesian language. In one poem, Spark compares Sergeant to an African continent, the moon, and a leopard.
Spark’s experiences in Africa made their way into her dramatic writing. A radio play she wrote, “The Dry River Bed”, is a satire on settler life and sequel to “The Portobello Road”. Borden Reeves, a white settler, has a secret – that he is ‘half-black’ – which becomes a barrier to marriage. This secret is further complicated by the fact that Borden Reeves is bound up with three other characters.
The story of Spark’s life in Africa is fascinating, and is not limited to her travels to the continent. She lived in Southern Rhodesia, where she had her only child, Robin. Despite the fact that Southern Rhodesia was still a colony of South Africa, the country was highly segregated. The Land Apportionment Act of 1930, which excluded blacks from certain areas, laid the foundation for a deeply segregated society. It prevented blacks from settling in certain areas, while preserving the best farmland for white settlers. This law echoed the Natives Land Act of 1913.
Although Spark’s memoir is short, it’s not short on information. Her first novel, published in 1957, was semi-autobiographical. It was praised by Evelyn Waugh. Spark doesn’t exaggerate her beauty, but photographs of her as a young woman show she was beautiful and confident. Sadly, she never married for a second time. She briefly regretted her decision once she reached her fifties.
Dame Muriel’s influence on Spark’s writing
Dame Muriel Spark has had an impact on Spark’s writing over the years. She is a modern Scottish author whose writing is infused with new ideas. Her feminist stance and writing style have shaped the development of Scottish literature. Her fiction is considered to be post-modern, breaking from traditional structures and fusing reality with fiction. Spark has been writing novels for decades and has remained popular.
Spark’s novels are often based on unusual crimes and events. In “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” she depicts a crime of passion, while “The Hothouse on the East River” focuses on a turn of events that is far from conventional. Later novels, such as “A Far Cry from Kensington,” have a darker tone. In addition, Spark published her autobiography in 1992.
Muriel Spark had an interest in literature from an early age. She later taught English and worked as a secretary in a department store. In the 1930s, she married in Southern Rhodesia and had a son named Samuel Robin Spark. She eventually returned to the United Kingdom in 1944, and worked for the British Foreign Office in the Political Intelligence Department.
Spark’s writing has been controversial due to her Catholicism. Critics like Granville Hicks have called her a “gloomy Catholic” who “cared more about man’s sins than the goodness of God.” Others have defended Spark’s work, stating that her books do not force Catholicism on readers.
Spark cites her mother as an influence in her novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She also cites a friend, Derek Stanford, who wrote an article about Spark’s influence on her writing. She is an aficionado of the arts and an expert on the history of literature.
Spark was born in Scotland in 1918. Her father was a Jewish man and her mother was raised a Christian. She worked for British Intelligence during the World War, which gave her the opportunity to study art and literature. She earned high praise from writers like Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. She later settled in Tuscany with her friend Penelope Jardin.
Spark was just forty when she published her first novel, and she published 22 novels over five decades. She also wrote short stories and poetry. Spark was honored with several honorary degrees, including the Companion of Literature award by the Royal Society of Literature. She was also named Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She also won the Bram Stoker Award. She lived a very active literary life as a poet, before turning to fiction.
Spark’s influence on other authors was profound. Spark also wrote ‘black propaganda’ for the MI6. She later described her experiences as a tangle of flattering and damaging lies. Her writing includes books like The Mandelbaum Gate, The Hothouse by the East River, and Territorial Rights. The National Library of Scotland is launching a major radio series on Spark’s life.