Bernard Kops’s work is intensely autobiographical. Details of his early life may be found in The World Is a Wedding. He was born in Stepney in the East End of London in 1926. His father was a Dutch Jewish immigrant cobbler who came to London’s East End in 1904, and his mother was born in London of Dutch Jewish parents. Kops was the youngest of a family of four sisters and two brothers. Although his family was very poor, Kops grew up in an intense, colorful, and cosmopolitan environment. The English fascist demonstrations and counter-demonstrations of the late 1930’s in the East End of London provided a personal background for the awareness of anti-Semitism that pervades Kops’s work.
Kops left school when he was only thirteen to earn a living as best he could—as a docker, chef, salesman, waiter, liftman, and barrow boy, selling books in street markets. Already writing and reading intensely, he was particularly moved by Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra (pr., pb. 1931) and its depiction of family conflicts and fantasy states. T. S. Eliot was another early literary influence, from whom Kops gained insight into the theatrical use of popular songs. The foundations for Kops’s dramatic methodology were formed at the evening drama classes he attended at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End.
During World War II, Kops’s family moved around England in frequent evacuations and return trips to the badly blitzed...
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