Muriel Spark, Giant of Literature, Dies ; Author of the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' and the Girls of Slender Means' Dies in Hospital in Florence Aged 88
Stummer, Robin, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Dame Muriel Spark, one of the greatest post-war novelists and creator of some of modern literature's most endearing and complex characters, including the much-loved, Mussolini-admiring Edinburgh schoolmistress Miss Jean Brodie, has died in Italy at the age of 88.
Confirmation of Dame Muriel's death in a hospital in Florence on Thursday came only yesterday and was announced by the mayor of Civitella della Chiana, the ancient Tuscan town where she had lived for nearly 30 years.
Born Muriel Sarah Cam-berg in Edinburgh in 1918 to a Jewish Lithuanian father and English mother, Spark's first novel, The Comforters, was not published until 1957.
A talented child - she won the Walter Scott Prize for poetry at 12 - she taught English and trained as a secretary. In 1937 she married Sydney Oswald Spark, a teacher 13 years her senior. They divorced after six years. "It was a big disaster," she later said.
During the war, Muriel Spark worked on propaganda for the Foreign Office. Afterwards she moved to London, and began her literary career. She became editor of the Poetry Review, and went on to write critical studies of Mary Shelley and the Bront sisters.
Her novels - nearly two dozen, the last of which, The Finishing School, was published in 2004 - are intricately-woven tales of faith and desire, with goodness often gone astray and badness at large. Dame Muriel's finest works include The Ballad of Peckham Rye, The Girls of Slender Means and The Abbess of Crewe, a parody of the Watergate scandal. But it was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, published in 1962 and based on her own Edinburgh schooldays, that brought wider fame. …