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This interview is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

in Conversation with Frank Kermode Nicolas Tredell

NT: In the 'Prologue' to your Essays on Fiction 1971-82, you call yourself 'a diachronic sort of person' (p.5), and so perhaps we could trace your development through time, with some synchronic excursions. You were born and brought up in Douglas, on the Isle of Man - very much on the margin in terms of conventional concepts of 'England' - and you went to Douglas High School. You then came over to the English mainland, to Liverpool University, and took your finals in 1940, in the shadow of war. Can you tell us about your literary and intellectual formation up to 1940, both inside and outside formal education?

FK: Well, the Douglas of my youth was not a very bookish place, but there were people interested in books. I remember, for example, our local newsagent used to give me copies of The Freethinker, and things like Shaw's Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, the two volumes in the Pelican series at 6d each, which I remember reading when I was about 16. There were bright people at school, of course. After all, I was a contemporary of Randolph Quirk's, and Randolph cannot be accused of not being bright. And there were good teachers, it was a good school in its way. My mother was sort of interested in poetry without knowing a lot about it. But it was very much provincial. And Liverpool, which was, as it were, the local university, the only one I could ...


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