Malcolm Bradbury CBE KB

English author and academic Sir Malcolm Bradbury CBE KB sadly died 27 November 2000. He was born 7 September 1932 in Sheffield. However His family moved to London in 1935, but he returned to Sheffield in 1941 with his brother and mother. The family later moved to Nottingham and in 1943 Bradbury attended West Bridgford Grammar School, where he remained until 1950. He read English at University College, Leicester and gained a first-class degree in English in 1953. He continued his studies at Queen Mary College, University of London, where he gained his MA in 1955.

Between 1955 and 1958 Bradbury moved between teaching posts with the University of Manchester and Indiana University in the United States. He returned to England in 1958 for a major heart operation; such was his heart condition that he was not expected to live beyond middle age. In 1959, while in hospital, he completed his first novel, Eating People is Wrong. Bradbury married Elizabeth Salt and they had two sons. He took up his first teaching post as an adult-education tutor at the University of Hull. With his study on Evelyn Waugh in 1962 he began his career of writing and editing critical books. From 1961 to 1965 he taught at the University of Birmingham. He completed his PhD in American studies at the University of Manchester in 1962, moving to the University of East Anglia (his second novel, Stepping Westward, appeared in 1965), where he became Professor of American Studies in 1970 and launched the MA in Creative Writing course, attended by both Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro. He published Possibilities: Essays on the State of the Novel in 1973, The History Man in 1975, Who Do You Think You Are? in 1976, Rates of Exchange in 1983 and Cuts: A Very Short Novel in 1987.

He also published books on Evelyn Waugh, Saul Bellow and E. M. Forster, as well as editions of such modern classics as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and a number of surveys and handbooks of modern fiction, both British and American. However, he is best known to a wider public as a novelist. Although often compared with his contemporary David Lodge, a friend who has also written campus novels, Bradbury’s books are consistently darker in mood and less playful both in style and language. In 1986 he wrote a short humorous book titled Why Come to Slaka?, a parody of travel books, dealing with Slaka, the fictional Eastern European country that is the setting for his novel Rates of Exchange, a 1983 novel that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

He also wrote extensively for television, including scripting series such as Anything More Would Be Greedy, The Gravy Train, the sequel The Gravy Train Goes East (which explored life in Bradbury’s fictional Slaka), and adapting novels such as Tom Sharpe’s Blott on the Landscape and Porterhouse Blue, Alison Lurie’s Imaginary Friends and Kingsley Amis’s The Green Man. His last television script was the episode Foreign Bodies for the series Dalziel and Pascoe.

He retired from academic life in 1995. Bradbury became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1991 for services to literature and was made a Knight Bachelor in the New Year Honours 2000, again for services to literature. Bradbury died at Priscilla Bacon Lodge, Colman Hospital, Norwich, 27 November 2000. He was buried on 4 December 2000 in the churchyard of St Mary’s parish church, Tasburgh, a village near Norwich where the Bradburys owned a second home. Though he was not an orthodox religious believer, he respected the traditions and socio-cultural role of the Church of England and enjoyed visiting churches in the spirit of Philip Larkin’s poem “Church Going”.

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