February 26th, 2008

Rayner Heppenstall

Rayner Heppenstall: I knew the name was vaguely familiar so I Googled him. Turns out he used to be a producer for BBC Radio. That's probably how his name got into my head.

But he was also an all-round literary phenomenon. He was mates with Eric Gill and Dylan Thomas, wrote a verse satire on Mussolini and produced a number of experimental novels which have been said to anticipate the French nouveaux romans of the 1950s- Robbe-Grillet, Duras, people like that.  He is also remembered as the person whom George Orwell beat up with a metal-shod shooting stick- an incident that strengthens my impression that Orwell (for all that he was a great writer) was a deeply unpleasant man. 

In old age Heppenstall became very right wing and somewhat mad and wrote a series of pot-boilers about crime and criminals. He died in 1981- aged 70. Most of his books- including the ground-breaking novels- are out of print.