Born October 17, 1934, into the working class at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, in northwestern England, Alan Garner was chronically ill for most of his first ten years, suffering from spinal and cerebral meningitis, diphtheria, pleurisy, and pneumonia. But these early bedridden years were formative for the future author. Forced to entertain himself, he invented stories, inspired by the irregular walls of his room, which he viewed as a fantasy landscape.
When he was eleven, Garner's health greatly improved and he quickly demonstrated outstanding abilities at the local school in Alderley Edge and at grammar (high) school in Manchester as a student and an athlete. He was so fiercely competitive as a sprinter, he said that he would have quit the sport the moment someone beat him in a race, but no one did. Garner went on to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied classical Greek literature and archeology and developed an interest in acting. He left Oxford without a degree after deciding that the numbing routines of academic life were not for him. The turning point, he explained, came soon after he realized that his professor never smiled once in two months of lecturing on Aristophanes, one of the greatest comedians of all time.
After leaving Oxford, Garner served as an officer in the Royal Artillery and then turned to writing after reading William Golding's Lord of the Flies in 1954, a work that deeply affected him. Returning to Cheshire,...
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