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Sillitoe, Alan

Entry updated 5 August 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1928-2010) UK author best known for early "kitchen-sink drama" novels like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), though he remained active well into the present century. The General (1960), filmed as Counterpoint (1967), involves a hijacked orchestra with abstract armies clashing on an abstract ground, perhaps not Terran. The long title poem of The Rats and Other Poems (coll 1960) literalizes Underground rats in Horror in SF terms, though the main drift of the narrative is to allegorize the psychic ills of modern Homo sapiens in the grips of Technology and political cynicism:

One cannot stay in England
Now that the Rats are there
For whoever stays in England
Gets them in their hair.

The anti-authoritarian Satire, Travels in Nihilon (1971), initially reads as a Dystopia, for the five travellers to that country despise its government and work to overthrow it; but, by story's close, Nihilism as a political creed seems to gain the author's guarded sanction. Both tales convey a sense that the proper, disestablished Hero – as delineated in Sillitoe's short essay, The Mentality of the Picaresque Hero (1993 chap) – should cast a cold eye on the organized, politicized world. Snow on the North Side of Lucifer (1979 chap) is a poetry sequence about the war between God and Satan, in which Satan represents science and progress, with some ambivalence. [JC]

Alan Sillitoe

born Nottingham, Nottinghamshire: 4 March 1928

died London: 25 April 2010

works (highly selected)


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