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Ronald Firbank

(1886—1926) novelist


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(1886–1926),

novelist, received little encouragement as a writer during his lifetime. His novels include Vainglory (1915); Inclinations (1916); Caprice (1917); Valmouth (1919, set in a watering place dominated by the erotic and manipulating black masseuse Mrs Yajñ‐avalkya); Santal (1921, set in North Africa); and The Flower beneath the Foot (1923). A play, The Princess Zoubaroff, was published in 1920. The first of his novels to be financed by a publisher, not by himself, was Prancing Nigger (1924; published as Sorrow in Sunlight in Britain); set in the West Indies, it describes the social aspirations and adventures of a black family. His last finished work, Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli (1926), appeared shortly after his death; other posthumous publications include The Artificial Princess (1934) and The New Rythum and Other Pieces (1962); the latter includes a very early work, Lady Appledore's Mésalliance.

Dandy, aesthete, exotic, homosexual, and habitué of the Café Royal, Firbank succeeded in creating a distinctive ‘Firbankian’ style, in both life and works. His use of dialogue, his oblique narration, his highly coloured fantasies, and his intense concentration of language and image are now seen as truly innovative, and some writers have claimed that he did more to liberate the novel from 19th‐cent. concepts of realism than Joyce himself. Those who show traces of his influence include E. Waugh, I. Compton‐Burnett, Gerhardie, and M. Spark.

Subjects: Literature.


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Works by Ronald Firbank

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