(1928 - 2010)

Alan Sillitoe was born on March 4th 1928 in Nottingham in England. He left school at the age of 14 and worked at the Raleigh Bicycle Factory (1942), and as an air traffic control assistant (1945-6). From 1946 to 1949 he served as an RAF wireless operator in Malaya, and after demobilisation he was hospitalised for 18 months with tuberculosis, during which time he began to write. Between 1952 and 1958 he travelled in France and Spain with the poet Ruth Fainlight, whom he married in 1959. Alan Sillitoe's first volume of poetry, Without Beer or Bread was published in 1957, swiftly followed in 1958 by his first novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. It was awarded the Author's Club First Novel Award and was made into a film starring Albert Finney in 1960. His next book was The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1959). It won the Hawthornden Prize and was filmed in 1961 starring Tom Courtenay. His other novels include the trilogy The Death of William Posters (1965), A Tree on Fire (1967), and The Flame of Life (1974); A Start in Life (1970) and its sequel Life Goes On (1985); the semi-autobiographical Raw Material (1972), which examines working-class attitudes to the First World War and the Depression; The Widower's Son (1976); The Broken Chariot (1998); and The German Numbers Woman (1999), the story of a blind war veteran. Alan Sillitoe's short story collections include The Ragman's Daughter (1963), Men Women and Children (1973), Collected Stories (1995) and Alligator Playground (1998). He also published several volumes of poetry. As well as adapting his own novels for film he also wrote the screenplay to Che Guevara (1968), and wrote stage and television plays. The City Adventures of Marmalade Jim (1967) was the first of several books for children, and he also wrote a collection of autobiographical and critical essays and a volume of autobiography, Life without Armour (1995). His novel, Birthday (2001), is a sequel to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Alan Sillitoe died on April 25th 2010 in London after a long battle with cancer.

My selection:

The Loneliness Of A Long Distance Runner : (La Solitude Du Coureur De Fond) 1959

When he is caught by the police for robbing a bakery, Colin the streetwise son of working-class parents from Nottingham, is sentenced to be confined in Ruxton Towers, a Borstal (a reform school for delinquent youths). Taken there in handcuffs and detained in bleak and highly restrictive circumstances, he seeks solace in long-distance running, attracting the notice of the school’s authorities for his physical prowess. Long-distance running offers Colin a welcome distraction from the brutal drudgery of the Borstal regime and he is offered the prospect of early release from Borstal, if he wins in an important cross-country competition against a prestigious public school. For Ruxton Towers to win the cross-country race would be a major boost for the establishment, and Colin has an obvious incentive to cooperate. However, when the day of the race arrives Colin throws victory away: after speeding ahead of the other runners he deliberately stops running a few metres short of the finishing line, even though he is well ahead and could easily win. Seconds tick by as Colin stands there, in full view of the amazed race spectators who shout at him to finish the race. However, he deliberately lets the other runners pass him and cross the finishing line, thereby losing the race in a nihilistic gesture of contempt and defiance aimed against his Borstal captors, and the repressive forces that they represent. In deliberately losing the race, Colin demonstrates his belief that the race (and the Establishment values that it symbolises) is meaningless, that the approval of his supposedly social superiors is worthless, and that he resolutely refuses to play by their rules. The response of the Borstal authorities to Colin's action is heavy-handed. With the prospect of early release gone, Colin resigns himself to the drudgery of the soul-destroying manual labour he is forced to do. Looking back on his actions he has no regrets.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning : (Samedi Soir et Dimanche Matin) 1958

Nottingham in the late 1950's. The novel is split into two unequal parts. The bulk of the book, Saturday Night, and the much smaller second part, Sunday Morning:

Saturday Night :  Saturday Night begins in a working man's club in Nottingham. Arthur is 22 years old, and enjoying a night out with Brenda, the wife of a colleague at work. Challenged to a drinking contest, Arthur defeats "Loudmouth" before falling down the stairs drunk. Brenda takes him home with her and they spend the night together. Arthur enjoys breakfast with Brenda and the children before her husband Jack gets home from a weekend at the races. Arthur works at a lathe (un tour - machine) at a bicycle factory with his friend Jack. Arthur keeps his mind occupied during the mundane and repetitive work through a mental collage of imagined fantasies, and memories of the past. He earns a good wage of 14 pounds a week, and Robboe, his superior, fears he may get in trouble for letting Arthur earn so much. Soon Arthur hears the news that Jack has been switched to nights, which pleases Arthur as he can now spend more time with his wife. At the same time, Arthur carries on with Brenda's sister Winnie. During another night out at the pub, Arthur meets Doreen, a young unmarried girl with whom he begins a relatively innocent courtship — all the while keeping Brenda and Winnie a secret. However, although Jack is oblivious to his wife's infidelity, Winnie's husband Bill catches on — and Arthur's actions catch up with him when Bill and an accomplice jump Arthur one night, leaving him beaten and bed-ridden for days.

Sunday Morning :  Sunday Morning follows the course of events after Arthur's assault. When Doreen comes to check up on him, Arthur finally comes clean about his affairs with Brenda and Winnie. Doreen stays in a relationship with Arthur despite his dishonesty; Brenda and Winnie disappear from the story. By the end of the novel, Arthur and Doreen have made plans to move in with one another.


If you want to discover some of his poems, just click HERE.