Paul West Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Paul Noden West is one of America’s most imaginative and innovative contemporary writers and finest literary stylists. He was born in Eckington, England, on February 23, 1930, the son of Alfred and Mildred (Noden) West. From his earliest days, West was surrounded by book lovers—parents, grandparents, and relatives—who viewed the written word as sacred and who considered nearly any book a worthy addition to an ever-growing canon of literary experiences, experiences they considered as valid as those of everyday life for authenticating the self and one’s existence in the world. West quickly assimilated this reverence for the word and literary text as experience and applied it to his studies at Oxford and Columbia universities. Between the childhood encouragement to sample literature from around the world and the Oxford mentoring that exhorted him to experience literature, learning, and activities outside the traditional academic setting, it is not surprising that West developed an eclectic, comparative taste in literature and in the versatility and variety of his literary craft.

Even a cursory examination of West’s works reveals their thematic variety and stylistic richness as well as the originality of his imagination. His themes include psychic abuse, failed relationships, societal indifference, and spiritual inadequacy, but a positive side exists in his writing as well. Self-discovery and survival are strong forces in his works. The dialectical tensions between the...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Paul Noden West was born in Eckington, Derbyshire, England, on February 23, 1930, one of two children, into a working-class family. After attending local elementary and grammar schools, West went to Birmingham University, then to Lincoln College, Oxford, and in 1952 to Columbia University on a fellowship. Although profoundly attracted to New York life, West was forced to return to England to fulfill his military service in the Royal Air Force and there began his writing career.

Once he concluded his service, West taught English literature at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, wrote a volume of poems, and did considerable work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1962, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and returned to the United States, where he took up permanent residence. He was a member of the English and comparative literature faculties at Pennsylvania State University from 1962 to 1995, dividing his time each year between teaching and writing in New York. Upon his retirement, he devoted himself to writing and guest lectureships at Goucher College, University of Miami, Cornell University, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He became a U.S. citizen.