Priestley, John Boynton

Priestley, John Boynton

 

Born Sept. 13, 1894, in Bradford. English writer.

The son of a schoolteacher, Priestley fought in World War I (1914–18). He studied English literature at Cambridge University and began his literary career as a critic, with such books as Figures in Modern Literature (1924) and English Comic Characters (1925). His novel The Good Companions (1929) counters the pessimism and skepticism of the writers of the “lost generation” with an optimistic faith in overcoming the difficulties of the postwar period.

Priestley’s novels of the 1930’s, including Angel Pavement (1930; Russian translation, 1960) and They Walk in the City (1936), exposed the contradictions of capitalist England. The novel Blackout in Gretley (1942; Russian translation, 1944) attacked reactionary English bourgeois circles seeking a way to appease the Nazis. The novel Three Men in New Suits (1945; Russian translation, 1946) was devoted to the difficulties of returning to peacetime life. Such novels of the 1950’s and 1960’s as Festival at Farbridge (1951) and The Magicians (1954) present a multithematic picture of contemporary British life. Sir Michael and Sir George (1964; Russian translation, 1965) ironically depicts the contemporary English bureaucracy, a theme developed further in the novels The Image Men (1968) and London End (1969).

Priestley has contributed abundantly to modern English drama. His plays combine an acute sensitivity to the drama inherent in life with the presentation of social and moral problems. Such plays as Laburnum Grove (1933) and Eden End (1934), written in a traditional and realistic manner, bear traces of A. P. Chekhov’s influence. The plays Dangerous Corner (1932; Russian translation, 1939), Time and the Conways (1937), Music at Night (1938; published 1947), and An Inspector Calls (1947) make bold use of theatrical conventions. Exposure of abuses is a distinguishing trait in Treasure on Pelican (1953, Russian translation, 1957), Mr. Kettle and Mrs. Moon (1955; Russian translation, 1958), and The Glass Cage (1958).

A deep interest in contemporary life and its problems endows many of Priestley’s works with a topical quality. However, hastiness and carelessness of execution prevent some of them from attaining true artistry.

WORKS

Literature and Western Man. London, 1962.
The Lost Empires. London, 1965.
Out of Town, London, 1967.

REFERENCES

Ivasheve, V. V. Angliiskaia literatura XX v. Moscow, 1967.
Hughes, D. J. B. Priestley. London, 1958.
Evans, G. L. J B. Priestley, the Dramatist. London [1964].

A. A. ANIKST

Mentioned in ?