The Publishing Scene in A Far Cry from Kensington

Schonfield, E. (2022) The Publishing Scene in A Far Cry from Kensington. In: Carruthers, G. and Stoddart, H. (eds.) The Crooked Dividend: Essays on Muriel Spark. Series: Occasional Papers (24). Scottish Literature International: Glasgow, pp. 247-263. ISBN 9781908980335

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL:


A Far Cry from Kensington (1988) is a novel about the process of writing itself and how books are produced. It offers a backstage view of the London publishing ‘scene’ of the early 1950s, depicting it as a semi-criminal, cut-throat business. This ‘scene’ is also a crime scene, a scene of corruption and abuse in which the perpetrators are often male and the victims are often female: exploited as helpers and menials, or harvested by the author as raw material for his work. This chapter is divided into three sections. Section 1 draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s study of the literary field in The Rules of Art as an institution run by publishers, editors and critics with the power to canonise or excommunicate. Spark’s first-person narrator, Mrs Nancy Hawkins, refuses to keep her mouth shut and is removed from her post. Section 2 considers the novel as a masterclass in creative writing, since the narrator, an experienced copy-editor, offers valuable advice to aspiring authors for free. Here, the novel reflects on the business of writing itself, and on what distinguishes good writing from bad. Section 3 examines literary exploitation in its most vicious form, focusing on the abusive relationship between the author, Hector Bartlett, and his subject, Wanda Podolak. Having seduced Wanda, Bartlett terrorizes her with anonymous letters. He sacrifices her in the interests of his own literary career, and then, having destroyed her, he writes her up as a case study. In this way, the novel presents a disturbing and haunting picture of the literary business.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Schonfield, Dr Ernest
Authors: Schonfield, E.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > German
Publisher:Scottish Literature International

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record