We're very excited to welcome Susie Thomas, Nadia Valman, and Ken Worpole to discuss SO WE LIVE, a new collection of essays exploring the work of Hackney novelist Alexander Baron.
The novelist Alexander Baron (1917-1999) was born into a working class Jewish home in Hackney, joined the Communist Party as a young man, saw the thick of battle in Sicily and Normandy, and became one of the most admired writers of post-war Britain. His first novel, FROM THE CITY, FROM THE PLOUGH (1948), was acclaimed as the definitive novel of the Second World War, the first of a trilogy including THERE'S NO HOME (1950) and THE HUMAN KIND (1953). This was followed by a string of novels about working class life in post-war London, including THE LOWLIFE (1963) a cult novel for many other writers ever since. In recent years his reputation has flourished with many of his fifteen novels back in print. This is the first detailed study of the man and his work.
Dr Susie Thomas has taught Baron’s London novels on her literature courses to American undergraduates in London for many years. The students always say the same thing: “The Lowlife is awesome. Why isn’t Baron better known?” It is difficult to know how to answer. She has published articles on British Literature from Aphra Behn to Martin Amis. She edited HANIF KUREISHI: A READER'S GUIDE TO ESSENTIAL CRITICISM and she is the Reviews Editor for the The Literary London Journal.
Dr Nadia Valman is Reader in English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. She has published widely on British Jewish literature, including a survey of the postwar British Jewish novel in the Oxford History of the Novel in English, editing British Jewish Women Writers and co-editing the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Jewish Cultures. She is the creator of Zangwill’s Spitalfields, a walking tour app using Israel Zangwill’s classic novel of Jewish immigration, Children of the Ghetto (1892) as a guide to Spitalfields, east London, where the novel is set. She is currently researching the literature of east London.
Ken Worpole is a writer on architecture, landscape and public policy, and was Emeritus Professor at the Cities Institute, London Metropolitan University. He has a particular interest in the literature of east London and Hackney, where he and his wife, the photographer, Larraine Worpole, have lived and worked since 1969. Ken’s 1983 interview with Alexander Baron formed the basis of his pioneering re-appraisal of Baron’s fiction in his first book, DOCKERS & DETECTIVES, a study of post-war British working class fiction, published in 1983 and re-issued in an updated edition by Five Leaves in 2008.