Malcolm Bradbury Bradbury, Malcolm (Stanley)

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Malcolm (Stanley) Bradbury 1932–

English novelist, critic, short story writer, editor, dramatist, scriptwriter, and essayist.

A university professor whose major academic interest lies in contemporary literature, Bradbury is known for both his critical works and his satires of academic life. Much of Bradbury's fiction takes place in university settings in England or America and incorporates themes of social dislocation and liberalism.

Bradbury is one of England's most respected authorities on the modernist tradition in novels. The Social Context of Modern English Literature (1971) is a kind of modernist handbook which examines the intellectual responses of writers to historical and cultural changes. In Possibilities: Essays on the State of the Novel (1973) Bradbury advocates naturalism but also calls for a flexible approach to what he terms the "new problematics of realism." The Modern American Novel (1983) is an introductory study of American writers from 1890 to the present.

Bradbury's first novel, Eating People Is Wrong (1959), is a comic depiction of English provincial university life. In this work a British professor who considers himself a liberal humanist experiences a midlife crisis of conscience. Stepping Westward (1965), a lampoon on the differences between English and American culture, centers on a liberal, socially awkward British professor invited to lecture at an American university. The History Man (1975), perhaps Bradbury's most critically acclaimed work, was described by Margaret Drabble as raising "some very serious questions about the nature of civilization without for a moment appearing pretentious or didactic—a fine achievement." Rates of Exchange (1983), a cultural comedy about language and its contradictions, involves a professor of linguistics abroad in a mythical Eastern European province. Rachel Billington called the novel "one of the most exciting, original and worthwhile novels to appear in Britain recently."

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 1; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 14.)

C. P. Snow

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I am very interested in how this book ["Eating People Is Wrong"] goes down in the United States. For several reasons, I am sure the author is one of the most intelligent and gifted of up-and-coming English novelists. I am also sure that the difficulties of writers getting read across the Atlantic—in either direction—are becoming, not less, but greater….

I say all this because Mr. Bradbury's novel, which is extremely funny, packed with intelligence and moral feeling, and au fond original, does present some difficulties of setting for American readers. It is basically a story of people trying to find meaning in their lives, and in particular trying to find meaning through the right love relation. That, of course, is the same in Sioux Falls as in Mr. Bradbury's English town. But Mr. Bradbury, like several other English writers of his generation, has chosen to place his people in an English provincial university; and this may muffle some of his effects, unless U.S. readers have now got to terms with "Lucky Jim." Oxford and Cambridge are international symbols, but the English provincial universities, particularly in their effect on their brightest alumni, such as Mr. Bradbury, are not easy for Americans to apprehend. You have universities all conceivable shapes and sizes, but you have not anything deeply interwoven with the intricacies of the English class structure, which is in many ways a tedious subject for you and, God knows, often even more tedious for us. The essential feature of Mr. Bradbury's background is that a high proportion of all the faculty are disappointed to be teaching where they are, instead of at Cambridge. They feel lost and without either status or purpose….

The people, though, would be just as viable in an American faculty. They are Mr. Bradbury's great triumph. He knows them, cares about them, does not sentimentalize them, and gives each, even the...

(The entire section is 10,761 words.)