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Connolly, Cyril

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

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(1903-1974) UK author, editor and influential critic, perhaps best known for his examination of obstacles to the writing of masterpieces in the partly autobiographical Enemies of Promise (1938; rev 1949) and for his highly mannered assemblage of aphorisms, commonplace-book quotes and sometimes surreal meditations in The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle (1944; rev 1945) as by Palinurus. He edited the UK literary magazine Horizon: A Review of Literature and Art through its entire run of 102 issues from 1940 to 1949. A useful sampler of Horizon contributions is The Golden Horizon (anth 1953), also edited by Connolly. This includes a comic sf tale by Maurice Richardson, plus other material by Herman Hesse, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell on H G Wells in "Wells, Hitler and the World State" (August 1941 Horizon), Bertrand Russell practising Futures Studies in "The Outlook for Mankind" (April 1948 Horizon), and H G Wells himself.

Though Connolly was not exactly hospitable to genre fiction, his survey of the central texts of Modernism in The Modern Movement: One Hundred Key Books from England, France and America 1880-1950 (1965) lists several authors with entries in the present encyclopedia, including Villiers de L'Isle-Adam; Alfred Jarry; Joseph Conrad, partly for Heart of Darkness (February-April 1899 Blackwood's Magazine as "The Heart of Darkness"; in Youth: A Narrative; and Two Other Stories, coll 1902; 1925); Aldous Huxley for, inter alia, Brave New World (1932); Arthur Koestler for Darkness at Noon (trans 1940); and George Orwell for both Animal Farm (1945 chap) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). This overview provided the template for such later works as Anthony Burgess's genre-friendlier Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English Since 1939: A Personal Choice (coll 1984) and David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: An English-Language Selection, 1949-1984 (1985).

Connolly's collections of essays and reviews, beginning with The Condemned Playground: Essays: 1927-1944 (coll 1945), all contain notable material and sometimes fictional spoofs of genre relevance. Parodies collected in The Condemned Playground include "Told in Gath" (in Parody Party, anth 1936, ed Leonard Russell), an enjoyably cruel send-up of an Aldous Huxley house party which ends apocalyptically; and "Year Nine" (January 1938 New Statesman), a brief but mordant burlesque of totalitarian Dystopia as depicted in We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamiatin. The latter parody's portrayal of the systematic erasure of past English culture may have influenced Nineteen Eighty-Four. Bond Strikes Camp (April 1963 The London Magazine; 1963 chap), a broader spoof of Ian Fleming's James Bond in which the macho agent must undertake a cross-dressing assignment as "Gerda Blond", appears in Previous Convictions (coll 1963). [DRL]

Cyril Vernon Connolly

born Coventry, Warwickshire: 10 September 1903

died Eastbourne, East Sussex: 26 November 1974

works (selected)

  • Bond Strikes Camp (London: privately printed at the Shenval Press, 1963) [chap: written 1962: first appeared April 1963 The London Magazine: James Bond: pb/nonpictorial]


works as editor

works as translator


previous versions of this entry

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