Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rebecca West, The Art of Fiction No. 65

Interviewed by Marina Warner - The Paris review

In your novel, The Fountain Overflows, you describe the poverty of the educated class very beautifully. Was that your background?

Oh, yes. I’ll tell you what the position was. We had lots of pleasant furniture that had belonged to my father’s family, none that had belonged to my mother’s family, because they didn’t die—the whole family all went on to their eighties, nineties—but we had furniture and we had masses of books, and we had a very good piano my mother played on. We were poor because my father’s father died, when he and his three brothers were schoolboys. Their mother was a member of the Plymouth Brethren and a religious fanatic with a conscience that should have been held down and, you know, been eunuchized or castrated. She refused to keep on, to accept any longer, an annuity, which she was given by the royal family. And nobody knows why she was given it, and she found out the reason and she didn’t approve of it, and she refused it, and they were poor forever after. The maddening thing was nobody ever knew why she said to Queen Victoria, “I cannot accept this allowance.” It was hard on my father, who was in the army, because you needed money to be an officer. He was a ballistics expert. He did quite well in various things.

Full interview

And a review of The Fountain Overflows at the NYRB

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