Malcolm Bradbury Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Malcolm Bradbury was among the handful of contemporary British fiction writers who managed to extend the range of the English novel by simultaneously working within and against the liberal-realist tradition that dominated British writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Equally important, his career encapsulated the shift that occurred in postwar British fiction from a more or less provincial realism to a decidedly international postmodernism.

Bradbury was born on September 7, 1932, in Sheffield, England. Attending college during the 1950’s, he was among the many middle-and lower-middle-class students to benefit from the expansion of England’s university system immediately after World War II. His first novel, Eating People Is Wrong, draws extensively on Bradbury’s student days at three “redbrick” universities (Leicester, London, and Manchester) and evidences an obvious but by no means slavish debt to Kingsley Amis’s first novel, also set in a redbrick university, Lucky Jim (1954), which began the assault on social and academic privilege and pretense. Both novels are satirical. They belong to the English comic novel tradition and, more specifically, to the subgenre of the “campus novel.” What especially distinguishes Bradbury’s novel is a depth of moral concern that derives from the liberal-humanist tradition that Bradbury both endorsed and questioned. This doubleness of vision and intent becomes much more evident in his second novel, Stepping Westward. Here, Bradbury, drawing on his own experiences at American universities in the mid-and late 1950’s, focuses on the plight of a young, iconoclastic English novelist as he acts out his part of visiting writer-in-residence in the American cultural and academic wilderness. Reversing the direction of the Jamesian international novel, Bradbury juxtaposes not only two nations and societies but also, more important, two very different kinds of liberalism and two very different narrative styles. The result is a work in which each is tested but no one emerges entirely victorious or entirely unscathed by Bradbury’s satire and skepticism. He probes a number of cultural, political, moral, and literary issues without attempting to impose any definitive solutions. As novelist and as moralist, he seeks to provoke rather than propound.

Just as his work as a novelist cannot be separated from his belief in liberal humanism, neither can it be separated from his work as literary critic. Even as a critic in the tradition of Matthew...

(The entire section is 1040 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Malcolm Stanley Bradbury was born in Sheffield, England, on September 7, 1932, the son of Arthur, a railwayman, and Doris Bradbury. The young Bradbury suffered from a heart condition that kept him off the playing fields during his school years. Instead, he spent his time in libraries. His academic diligence and love for literature contributed to his becoming first in his family to be a university student. He attended the University of Leicester and graduated in 1953 with first-class honors. Bradbury received an M.A. from the University of London in 1955, and then went on to study at Indiana and Yale universities in the United States before receiving his Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Manchester, England, in 1962.

Bradbury had a major heart operation in 1958 and completed his first novel, Eating People Is Wrong, while in the hospital. In 1959, he married Elizabeth Salt, a librarian, with whom he had two sons, Matthew and Dominic, and began his teaching career as a tutor of adult education at the University of Hull. From 1961 to 1965, he taught at the University of Birmingham. While there, he published humorous essays, sketches, and reviews; became friends and sometimes collaborated with fellow novelist David Lodge; and wrote a critical study of Evelyn Waugh.

In 1965, the year his second novel, Stepping Westward, was published, Bradbury moved to the University of East Anglia, where he would spend the rest of...

(The entire section is 481 words.)