A Writer’s Life

  • Norman Page
Part of the Macmillan Modern Novelists book series (MONO)


Muriel Spark was born Muriel Sarah Camberg in Edinburgh in 1918. Her father was a Jewish engineer whose parents had settled in Scotland, her mother a Gentile who came from Hertfordshire. As a child Muriel Spark went south to spend holidays with her maternal grandmother, who kept a small shop in Watford, portrayed in the autobiographical short story ‘The Gentile Jewesses’: this grandmother was a colourful personality who had been a suffragette and provided a model for Louisa Jepp in The Comforters. This mixed ancestry has been seen as a vital shaping influence. Alan Massie writes that

it is Muriel Spark’s Jewish-Scottish inheritance and upbringing that makes her the moralist she is. When she steps back and says, this is what you have done with your life, this is how you have denied God, this is how you are cursed; then the message, if not the tone, is that of an Old Testament prophet or Calvinist preacher. It is her Jewish-Scottish heritage that allows her to combine a sense of the moral responsibility of action with the determinism that says, “What you have done has unavoidably, unalterably shaped your life.”1


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© Norman Page 1990

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