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Curriculum Vitae: A Volume of Autobiography (1992)

por Muriel Spark

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274698,117 (3.73)36
It is no surprise that one of Muriel Spark's most lively and entertaining works would be her own memoir,Curriculum Vitae. Born to a Scottish Jewish father and an English Presbyterian mother, Spark describes her childhood in 1930s Edinburgh in brief, dazzling anecdotes. In one she recalls a cherished schoolteacher, Christina Kay, who would later be used as the prototype for Miss Jean Brodie. Spark boldly details her disastrous first marriage to Sydney Oswald Spark (S.O.S.) -- himself thirty-two, she just nineteen -- whom she followed to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and left behind to return to England. In the midst of WWII, Spark took a bizarre position working in the disinformation campaign of the British Secret Service, eliciting information from German POWs to combat Nazi propaganda. She later moved to the Poetry Society of London, where she mingled with literati and other intellectuals, befriended by some (such as Graham Greene, an early supporter of her work) and sparring with others. We experience Spark's joy with the publication of her first novel,The Comforters, her trials with other writers' envy, and her emergence as the most brilliant femme fatale of 20th-century English literature.… (mais)
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Such a precise and concise writer in this, her autobiography, and in her novels too; the result of doing a course of commercial writing at Heriot-Watt, her poetry and her acute observation
Muriel Spark is at pains to set the story straight about her life. She maintains she has almost all the correspondence at hand to verify her life's story and thus to refute falsifications about her in other published materiel.
Her early life in Edinburgh is a wonderful evocation of the twenties in that city. The loving family life, the schooling and the street life are remembered vividly and are the most endearing part of her story.
The later struggles in Rhodesia, her wartime work in black propaganda and later in publishing and editing are not so lavishly explored, but that is no fault.
Nonetheless, her silence about the development of her son, Robin, in the care of her parents, cannot help but be noticed, especially if one recalls the acrimony that developed between mother and son later.
Muriel Spark may well have all the documentation at hand to refute the distortions about her that have come with the fame her novels brought her. All the same, more reference to the record might reveal a fuller story.
Whatever the case, she was a fabulous edgy writer.
  ivanfranko | Mar 16, 2022 |
Spark writes engagingly and concisely about her childhood in Edinburgh, her disastrous flit to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to marry (and subsequently divorce) an imperfectly-vetted fiancé, her work for MI6 in the closing stages of the war, and her literary career in the London of the forties and fifties, up to the publication of her first novel The Comforters. She says that her main motivation in writing this memoir was to correct false information about her in other people's books, but, especially in the early chapters, the book reads as though she must have had a lot of fun putting it together, chasing up old acquaintances who could confirm or correct her distant memories. And of course it's a great pleasure to us to share in her rediscovery of the delights of growing up in the Edinburgh of the 20s and 30s, especially since it also involves meeting "the real Miss Jean Brodie" - as we might have guessed, Spark is at pains to assure us that the teacher who was the source for many of Brodie's eccentricities and verbal mannerisms was nothing like the manipulative monster she turned into in the novel, but someone remembered with love and affection by her old pupils. But she did call them the "crème de la crème".

In Southern Rhodesia, her caustic observations of the European settlers have a lot in common with what Doris Lessing says about them, but of course she would have read Lessing's books by the time she wrote this. One of Spark's lasting regrets (and one of the great literary might-have-beens) is that the two future novelists, both young mothers going through similar marital difficulties, didn't meet until much later, after they'd both left Africa.

After the war, Spark's reminiscences become a bit sketchier, probably because so many of the people concerned were still around and capable of taking offence, but she does slip in a few hard hits here and there when she gets the chance. I was amused to read her version of her brief spell as General Secretary of the Poetry Society, which ended in acrimony after she managed to offend a significant number of the committee dinosaurs who were used to running things their own way - they thought a docile young woman would be a safe choice, but found her to have a mind of her own and a fierce desire to drag Poetry Review kicking and screaming into the 20th century. A familiar kind of story to anyone who's ever been involved in running any kind of voluntary organisation!

Something that hadn't occurred to me before, which Spark talks about here, is the overlap between The Comforters and Evelyn Waugh's The ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, written shortly after Spark's novel but before it was published. Both were based on frightening hallucinatory experiences that later turned out to be side-effects of prescription drugs the authors were taking (combined with under-eating in Spark's case) - Waugh must have been annoyed by the unfortunate coincidence, but despite that reviewed Spark's book very favourably and said he wished he'd thought of the typewriter device she uses to convey the effect of the hallucinations.

I only knew vaguely about Spark's background as a poet and her training as a commercial writer (she studied what we would now call "business English" at Herriot-Watt), but it makes perfect sense that she attributes her success as a novelist to these factors. Both are disciplines that force you to pay close attention to efficient and precise use of words, and that's exactly where Spark's novels - and this memoir - really score. ( )
2 vote thorold | Mar 3, 2019 |
I liked this, but started reading it at a bad time. I got about 1/3 of the way through before the library started breathing down my back and I had to return it (after several renewal attempts!). However, that said, I will get back to this. I really enjoyed what I did accomplish, but it's a relatively directionless memoir, so there wasn't anything enticing enough to pull me through it despite distractions.
  MizPurplest | Oct 20, 2015 |
Entertaining biography of Mrs. Sparks to her first major fiction novel, which was written to fend off rumors of her past by former associates. ( )
1 vote Prop2gether | Nov 17, 2008 |
This book made me wish I'd grown up in Scotland, only their food is so disgusting. There's no scandal here. Strictly Muriel Spark talking about her wonderful childhood in Scotland, very little about her husband and son, and how she became a writer. I really enjoyed this book because her style is so mesmerizing but it isn't for anyone who looks for lurid details in a biography, which I sometimes do. Hey, Maria Riva fan up in here! ( )
1 vote DameMuriel | May 5, 2008 |
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Muriel Sparkautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Bayer, OttoTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Delahaye, AlainTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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It is no surprise that one of Muriel Spark's most lively and entertaining works would be her own memoir,Curriculum Vitae. Born to a Scottish Jewish father and an English Presbyterian mother, Spark describes her childhood in 1930s Edinburgh in brief, dazzling anecdotes. In one she recalls a cherished schoolteacher, Christina Kay, who would later be used as the prototype for Miss Jean Brodie. Spark boldly details her disastrous first marriage to Sydney Oswald Spark (S.O.S.) -- himself thirty-two, she just nineteen -- whom she followed to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and left behind to return to England. In the midst of WWII, Spark took a bizarre position working in the disinformation campaign of the British Secret Service, eliciting information from German POWs to combat Nazi propaganda. She later moved to the Poetry Society of London, where she mingled with literati and other intellectuals, befriended by some (such as Graham Greene, an early supporter of her work) and sparring with others. We experience Spark's joy with the publication of her first novel,The Comforters, her trials with other writers' envy, and her emergence as the most brilliant femme fatale of 20th-century English literature.

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