- Category : Writers-Fiction
- Type : PE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Refinement 2
Best known for "the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" which was made into a motion picture. She was awarded the David Cohen British Literature Prize in recognition of a lifetime of literary achievement, over 20 novels in her long career with her last novel published in 2004, two years before her death. In 1992 she was awarded the TS Eliot Prize and in 1997 received the British Literature Prize. She was made a Dame in 1993 and was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1978 and Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 1996.
The only daughter of a Jewish father and an Episcopalian mother, she early on wanted to be a poet. As a child she earned a reputation as a poet and a dreamer. At age 12 she won a prize at James Gillespie's High School for Girls, a school experience that became the basis for her most famous novel "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1961). Training as a secretary, she traveled to Cape Town in 1937 when she married schoolteacher Sidney Oswald Spark. In 1944, she divorced her husband and raised their son as a single mother. Living in poverty and in desperation, she began to subsist on coffee and pills.
Determined to pursue her writing career, she made the agonizing decision to leave her son Robin in the care of her parents in Edinburgh. She made the treacherous sea journey from South Africa to London where she landed a job in wartime intelligence. That and a subsequent office job helped her get by while she wrote feverishly. In 1951, she won the Observer Short Story competition. In 1954 she converted to Catholicism, having established friendships with the novelists Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. Greene provided some financial assistance on the condition that she would never attempt to thank him.
Her travails during this time provided fodder for her first novel, "The Comforters," published in 1957. For a brief time she returned to Scotland where she wrote "Jean Brodie" and then moved to New York for a brief time. In 1968 she moved to Rome, producing several more novels. In the mid '70s she moved to Civitella della Chiana in Tuscany, Italy where she spent the rest of her life with her friend of many years, a painter and sculptor Penelope Jardin. Writing in longhand, her novel "Reality and Dreams," is based on her own health problems. Her final novel, "The Finishing School" was released in 2004.
Considered the best Scottish novelist of modern times, Dame Spark died on April 14, 2006 in a Florence, Italy hospital. She was 88.