V S Pritchett A Working Life Author:Jeremy Treglown Long considered the English Chekhov, V. S. Pritchett was described by Eudora Welty as “one of the great pleasure-givers in our language.” Here is a true literary event: the first major biography of this extraordinary writer, who for most of a century ennobled the ordinary, and the affecting story of the two tumultuous marriages that ... more »fueled his art.
He would become universally known as V.S.P., but he began life as Victor–named for Queen Victoria–in 1900. His imagination was both an inheritance from and an inoculation against his unpredictable father: a charming spendthrift who went bankrupt in a variety of businesses. For Victor, writing ultimately became a way to turn the pain of his past into security.
As a reporter in the 1920s, Pritchett was posted to some of the trouble spots of Europe, including pre-Civil War Spain, but he preferred travel to politics, honing the acute perception of common people that he used to great effect in his fiction. His youthful marriage to a better-born aspiring actress was his first crisis, leaving him in sexual misery, comforted only by the “inner riot” of his imagination.
His affair with and marriage to Dorothy Roberts, in his mid-thirties, changed his life. Passionate and forceful, she became Pritchett’s support and secretary, helping him to develop his voice in short stories, novels, literary journalism, and memoirs. His work dramatized the world of his native lower middle class, showing how “every life is interesting.” Their union produced two children and a cache of stunning erotic letters, published in part here for the first time.
But as Pritchett’s international fame as an author and critic grew, so did the couple’s separations. Already a serious drinker, Dorothy became an alcoholic. Pritchett took an American mistress while in residence at Princeton, causing a painful and prolonged domestic crisis.
Illuminating the connections between events in his life and famous works such as his novel Mr. Beluncle, dramatizing the friendships Pritchett forged with other writers, particularly Gerald Brenan, and cogently analyzing the undeserved eclipse his reputation would suffer immediately after his death, Jeremy Treglown’s V. S. Pritchettis the complete story of a popular, influential, deceptively simple author, a man to whom, he once misleadingly claimed, “nothing continues to happen.”« less