Olivia Manning

Commentary

Life
1908-1980; b. Portsmouth, dg. Commander Oliver Manning, RN, of Bangor, called ‘a poor naval officer’ [OCEL]; spent much of her youth in of Ireland; grand-dg. of David Morrow, of ‘the Old House at Home’ inn; m. R. [‘Reg’] D. Smith, British Council lecturer and lecturer at NUU; Bangor features in first novel, The Wind Changes (1937); “The Balkan Trilogy” follows substantially the real-life experence of Olivia and Reg as British Council teachers in that region during WWII; called by Anthony Burgess ‘the finest fictional account of the war produced by a British writer’, televised as Fortunes of War with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson; d. following fall to bottom of stairs. DIL IF2 MOR OCEL DUB

[ top ]

Works
The Wind Changes (1937); Balkan Trilogy (1960-1965); Levant Trilogy (1977-1980). See also [her] Introduction to Romanian Short Stories [World’s Classics] (OUP 1971).

[ top ]

Criticism
  • Neville & June [Olivia] Braybrooke, Olivia Manning (London: Chatto 2004), 310pp. [written by her literary executor; reviewed by Philip Hensher in Spectator, 30 Oct. 2004, p.46f.]
  • Eve Patten, Imperial Refugee: Olivia Manning’s The Wartime Fiction (Cork UP 2012), 242pp.

See also John Metcalf, ‘North Down’s Literary Associations’, Supplement to Fortnight Review (Sept. 1993) [short notice]; Eve Patten on Manning in That Island Never Found: Essays and Poems for Terence Brown, ed. Nicholas Allen & Patten (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2007), q.pp.

[ top ]

Commentary
Eve Patten, Imperial Refugee: Olivia Manning’s The Wartime Fiction (Cork UP 2012), offers a unique insight into the connected lives of a circle of British and Irish writers who served or lived abroad during the war years, including Lawrence Durrell, Evelyn Waugh, Derek Patmore, Keith Douglas and Patrick Leigh Fermor in a new reading of British literary history that an intersection between the confidence of pre-war ideologies and the anxieties of a dislocated post-war sensibility in relation to those writers. Further:

Manning (1908-1980) had a reputation as a difficult personality and this has threatened to obscure her reputation as a writer. The book aims to recover Manning's place as a pre-eminent novelist of British wartime experience. Manning belonged to a British literary generation which held tenaciously to its diverse Irish connections in the wartime years, but, as with Cyril Connolly or Lawrence Durrell, her claims on Irishness were intermittent and often distinctly pragmatic.

The book deals in depth with a diverse range of biographical, historical and literary detail. It examines the troubled interface between public and domestic narratives” and the ways in which Manning developed, through her experiences of living in Romania, Athens, Egypt and Jerusalem, her creative methods of politicising the refugee experience. As well as looking at Manning's novels within their diverse settings the book also examines the varied literary modes Manning deploys and adapts – the gothic, autobiography and writing the self, the serial novel, the wartime and epic and more. [... &c.]

—Notice from www.corkuniversitypress.com; on publication date 08.0.2012.

[ top ]

References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists The Wind Changes (London: Jonathan Cape 1937), 320pp. [setting, west of Ireland; three characters seeking revolutionary leader to free the country; psychological interest; Elizabeth is the mistress of the other two, Seán, a lapsed Catholic, and Arion, an English poet; all self-centred and finally frustrated.]

University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds The Dreaming Shore (1950).

[ top ]