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Paul (Mark) Scott (1920-1978)

 

British writer, best known for The Raj Quartet (1965-1975), which describes from different points of view the events that led to the end of the British rule in India. Scott was only noted as a master of his craft quite late in life. Just before he died, Scott  received the prestigious Booker Prize for the novel Staying On (1977).

"This is a story of a rape, of the events that led up to it and followed it and of the place in which it happened. There are action, the people, and the place; all of which are interrelated but in their totality incommunicable in isolation from the moral continuum of human affairs." (from The Jewel in the Crown, 1966; part one of The Raj Quartet)

Paul Scott was born in suburban North London, where he would continue to reside throughout most of his life. His father, Thomas Scott, was a commercial artist, and his mother, Frances, was a former shop clerk; she had written some novels which she destroyed after her marriage. George and Gilbert, his uncles, were commercial artists, who painted horses and hunting scenes with great success.

Scott was educated at Winchmore Hill Collegiate, a private school, but was forced to abandon his studies at the age of 16 when the family's money ran out. Scott then was sent to be trained in accountancy. Due to his "photographic" memory he passed th examination with great ease. During these years he read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which had a profound and lasting influence upon him. He had a lover, an aesthetic estate agent called Gerald Armstrong.

At the outbreak of World War II, Scott enlisted as a private he served as a supply officer. At Torquau he met Nancy Edith Avery, whom he married in 1941. They were soon separated when Scott was sent to India as an air supplies officer. He arrived in Bombay in 1943 without much knowledge of the country, but also without Kiplingesque arrogance. He served in India and Malaya (1943-46) and wrote during this period various poems and plays.

Upon returning to England, with amebiasis, from which he suffered some 20 years, he settled in London with his family and worked as book-keeper for the Falcon and Grey Walls Press. The publishing house was caricatured by Muriel Spark in A Far Cry from Kensington. In 1950 Scott joined Pearn, Pollinger and Higham as a literary agent. After abandoning poetry he wrote radio play and television plays, and then published a string of novels dealing more or less directly with British military figures on duty in foreign lands. From 1960 Scott devoted himself entirely to writing, though it took many years before he started to gain recognition. Elizabeth Avery also became a novelist.

The manuscrip of Scott's novel The Gradual Day, later re-entitled The Dazzling Crystal, was rejected by 17 publishers. Johnnie Sahib (1952), set in the border area of India and Burma at the end of WW II, won Scott the Eyre and Spottiswoode Award. The Alies Sky (1953), his second novel, was adapted for radio and television. In the United States the book was published under the title Six Days in Marapore. Scott's early works received mixed reviews and did not sell well. He gained an international reputation with the Raj Quartet, which was also adapted for the Granada television series The Jewel in the Crown (1982). Most of Scott's works depict India or have Indian themes and characters.

The Raj Quartet, set in the final years of British India in 1942-47, was completed in 1974. It includes four novels, told from different point of views. Through its characters and their worldview Scott examined the moral and ethical decline of the last years of the colonial rule. Like in Forster's A Passage to India (1924), accusations of rape parallel with the reality of colonialism and issues of class and race. However, Scott denied any direct influence from Forster, and he thought that the novel has no "conscious moral purpose" apart expressing the novelist's view of reality.

The Jewel in the Crown (1966) opens with an image of a girl running in an essay Scott said that for him the inspiration for a novel always came in the form of an image. The novel presents for the reader Daphne Manners, a young Englishwoman, her Anglo-Indian lover Hari Kumar, and the sadistic police official Ronald Merrick, who feels superior to Kumar. Daphne is raped by a group of men in the Bibighar Gardens of Mayapore, when she is spending a night with Hari. She dies in childbirth without accusing Hari. In The Day of the Scorpion (1968) Hari is imprisoned because of the rape and Merrick says that he believes Hari is guilty. The Towers of Silence (1972) focuses on the Layton family, the engagement of Susan Layton and Teddie Bingham, their weddings, and the events before Teddie's death. A Division of the Spoils (1974) continues the story, but the central character is Guy Perron, who witnesses the independence process of India and hears about Merrick's death. Staying On  returns to the world of the quartet, and depicts two of the minor characters, Tusker and Lucy Smalley, an elderly couple, who live in an isolated retirement in India long after independence. The novelist Salman Rushdie has criticized The Raj Quartet for perpetuating, perhaps unintentionally, colonial assumption and racial stereotypes.

His last years Scott spent traveling between his Hampstead house and the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was a visiting fellow. He suffered from cancer and his condition was weakened by heavy drinking, which had caused cirrhosis of the liver. He died on March 1, 1978 in London. According to Scott's biographer, the family also suffered from his violence  he often shut himself away for days in his study, working and drinking there. Eventually his wife left him, seeking a first shelter at Chiswick Women's Aid.

For further reading: Paul Scott by K.B. Rao (1980); Introducing The Raj Quartet by J. Tedesco and J. Popham (1985); Paul Scott's Raj by R. Moore (1990); Paul Scott by Hilary Spurling (1990); Paul Scott's Raj by R. Moore (1990); 'Outside the Whale' by S. Rushdie  in Imaginary Homelands (1991); Paul Scott: His Art and Vision by V.R. Badiger (1994); After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie by Michael Gorra (1997); Paul Scott's "Raj Quartet": History and Division by Peter Childs (1998); Paul Scott: The Raj Quartet and Staying On by John Lennard (2010)  - Other widely acclaimed novels by British authors about India: E.M. Forster: A Passage to India (1924); Salman Rushdie: Midnight's Children (1981).  See also: Kilping, Tagore

Selected works:

  • 'I, Gerontius - The Creation - The Dream - The Cross', 1941
  • The Pillars of Salt, 1948 (play)
  • Johnnie Sahib, 1952
  • The Lines of Communication, 1952 (radio play, based on Johnnie Sahib)
  • The Alien Sky, 1953 (US title: Six Days in Marapore, 1953)
  • A Male Child 1956
  • The Mark of the Warrior, 1958
  • Sahibs and Memsahibs, 1958 (radio play)
  • The Chinese Love Pavilion, 1960
  • The Birds of Paradise, 1962
  • The Bender: Pictures from an Exhibition of Middle Class Portraits: A Novel, 1963
    - Pennitön perijä: näytteitä keskiluokan muotokuvagalleriasta (suom. Antero Tiusanen, 1964)
  • The Corrida at San Feliu, 1964
  • Jewel in the Crown: A Novel, 1966 (The Raj Quartet) 
    - Kuningattaren jalokivi (suom. Kyllikki Villa, 1985)
    - TV adaptation of The Raj Quartet under the title The Jewel in the Crown (1984), prod. by Granada Television, dir. by Christopher Morahan & Jim O'Brien, cast: Tim Pigott-Smith, Geraldine James, Wendy Morgan, Judy Parfitt, Rosemary Leach, Peggy Ashcroft, Geoffrey Beevers
  • The Day of the Scorpion: A Novel, 1968 (The Raj Quartet)
    - Skorpionin päivä (suom. Leena Tamminen, 1985)
  • The Towers of Silence: A Novel, 1971 (The Raj Quartet)
    - Hiljaisuuden tornit (suom. Leena Tamminen, 1985)
  • A Division of the Spoils: A Novel, 1975 (The Raj Quartet)
    - Saaliinjako (suom. Leena Tamminen, 1986)
  • Staying On: A Novel, 1977 (Booker Prize)
    - TV film (1980), prod. by Prestige Productions, dir. by Silvio Narizzano, featuring Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson, Saeed Jaffrey, Pearl Padamsee, Fida Bai, Zia Mohyeddin
  • After the Funeral, 1979 (with a preface by Roland Gant & with illustrations by Sally Scott)
  • My Appointment with the Muse: Essays, 1961-75, 1986 (edited with an introduction by Shelley C. Reece)
  • Collected Essays, 1991
  • The Raj Quartet, 2007 (2 vols., with an introduction by Hilary Spurling)
  • Behind Paul Scott's Raj Quartet: A Life in Letters, 2011 (edited by Janis Haswell) 


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