See her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae (1993); critical biography by B. Cheyette (2001); studies by D. Stanford (1963), K. Malkoff (1968), P. Stubbs, ed. (1973), R. Whittaker (1982), A. Bold, ed. (1986), D. Walker (1988), R. S. Edgecombe (1990), N. Page (1990), J. L. Randisi (1991), J. Hynes, ed. (1992), J. Sproxton (1992), M. Pearlman (1996), F. E. Apostolou (2001), and M. McQuillan, ed. (2001).
(born Feb. 1, 1918, Edinburgh, Scot.—died April 13, 2006, Florence, Italy) British writer. She spent several years in Central Africa, returning to Britain during World War II. Until 1957 she published only poetry and criticism, including studies of Mary Shelley and the Brontë sisters. Her fiction uses satire and wit to present serious themes, often questions about good and evil. Memento Mori (1959) is her most widely praised novel; the best-known is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961; film, 1969). Her later novels, often more sinister in tone, include The Abbess of Crewe (1974), A Far Cry from Kensington (1988), and Reality and Dreams (1996).
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On 3 September 1937, she married Sidney Oswald Spark, and soon followed him to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Their son Robin was born in July 1938. Within months she discovered that her husband was a manic depressive prone to violent outbursts. In 1940 Muriel had left Sidney and Robin. She returned to the United Kingdom in 1944 and worked in intelligence during World War II. She provided money at regular intervals to support her son as he toiled unsuccessfully over the years. Spark maintained it was her intention for her family to set up home in England, but Robin returned to Britain with his father later to be brought up by his maternal grandparents in Scotland.
Her first novel, The Comforters, was published in 1957. It featured several references to Catholicism and conversion to Catholicism, although its main theme revolved around a young woman who becomes aware that she is a character in a novel.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) was more successful. Spark displayed originality of subject and tone, making extensive use of flashforwards. It is clear that James Gillespie's High School was the model for the Marcia Blaine School in the novel.
After living in New York City for some years, she moved to Rome, where she met the artist and sculptor Penelope Jardine in 1968. In the early 1970s they settled in the Italian region of Tuscany and lived in the village of Civitella della Chiana, of which in 2005 Spark was made an honorary citizen. She was the subject of frequent rumours of lesbian relationships from her time in New York onwards, although Spark and her friends denied their validity. She left her entire estate to Jardine, taking measures to ensure her son received nothing.
She refused to agree to the publication of a biography of her written by Martin Stannard. Penelope Jardine now has the right of approval to publication and the book is unlikely to appear soon. According to A. S. Byatt, "She was very upset by the book and had to spend a lot of time going through it, line by line, to try to make it a little bit fairer".
She received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1965 for The Mandelbaum Gate, the US Ingersoll Foundation TS Eliot Award in 1992 and the British Literature Prize in 1997. She became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993, in recognition of her services to literature.