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Favourite Authors > E. M. Forster

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
What do we know about E.M. Forster?

message 2: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I picked this off of Wikipedia:

Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970), was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy and also the attitudes towards gender and homosexuality in early 20th-century British society. Forster's humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect".

At King's College, Cambridge, between 1897 and 1901, he became a member of the Apostles (formally named the Cambridge Conversazione Society), a discussion society. Many of its members went on to constitute what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a peripheral member in the 1910s and 1920s.

After leaving university he travelled on the continent with his mother. He visited Egypt, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson in 1914. When the First World War broke out, he became a conscientious objector.

Forster spent a second spell in India in the early 1920s as the private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. The Hill of Devi is his non-fictional account of this trip. After returning from India, he completed his last novel, A Passage to India (1924), for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

Forster developed a friendship with Bob Buckingham, a policeman, and his wife, May, and included the couple in his circle, which also included the writer and arts editor of The Listener, J.R. Ackerley, the psychologist W.J.H. Sprott, and, for a time, the composer Benjamin Britten. Other writers with whom Forster associated included the poet Siegfried Sassoon and the Belfast-based novelist Forrest Reid.

Forster was elected an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge in January 1946,and lived for the most part in the college, doing relatively little. He declined a knighthood in 1949 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1953. In 1969 he was made a member of the Order of Merit. Forster died of a stroke in Coventry on 7 June 1970 at the age of 91, at the home of the Buckinghams. Forster was a humanist, homosexual, lifelong bachelor.

Forster's novel, A Room with a View (1908), is his lightest and most optimistic. It was started before any of his others, as early as 1901, and exists in earlier forms referred to as "Lucy". The book is the story of young Lucy Honeychurch's trip to Italy with her cousin, and the choice she must make between the free-thinking George Emerson and the repressed aesthete Cecil Vyse. George's father Mr Emerson quotes thinkers who influenced Forster, including Samuel Butler. A Room with a View was filmed by Merchant-Ivory in 1985.

Howards End (1910) is an ambitious "condition-of-England" novel concerned with different groups within the Edwardian middle classes represented by the Schlegels (bohemian intellectuals), the Wilcoxes (thoughtless plutocrats) and the Basts (struggling lower-middle-class aspirants).

Forster achieved his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924). The novel takes as its subject the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj. Forster connects personal relationships with the politics of colonialism through the story of the Englishwoman Adela Quested, the Indian Dr. Aziz, and the question of what did or did not happen between them in the Marabar Caves.

Maurice (1971) was published posthumously. It is a homosexual love story which also returns to matters familiar from Forster's first three novels, such as the suburbs of London in the English home counties, the experience of attending Cambridge, and the wild landscape of Wiltshire. The novel was controversial, given that Forster's sexuality had not been previously known or widely acknowledged. Today's critics continue to argue over the extent to which Forster's sexuality, even his personal activities, influenced his writing.

Forster's two best-known works, A Passage to India and Howards End, explore the irreconcilability of class differences. A Room with a View also shows how questions of propriety and class can make connection difficult. The novel is his most widely read and accessible work, remaining popular long after its original publication. His posthumous novel Maurice explores the possibility of class reconciliation as one facet of a homosexual relationship.

Sexuality is another key theme in Forster's works, and it has been argued that a general shift from heterosexual love to homosexual love can be detected over the course of his writing career. The foreword to Maurice describes his struggle with his own homosexuality, while similar issues are explored in several volumes of homosexually charged short stories. Forster's explicitly homosexual writings, the novel Maurice and the short-story collection The Life to Come, were published shortly after his death.

message 3: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I've read a good deal of his work (not all). I was first introduced to him through the film "A Room with a View" (still a favorite). That lead me to read that novel and all the others (save "The Longest Journey"). For obvious reasons I am drawn to "Maurice," representing a gay relationship that didn't end in tragedy (suicide or murder) was quite daring at the time - and he was chastised for it by many critics if the day.

message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 26, 2010 07:01PM) (new)

Ivan, do we know whether Forster intended/wished for Maurice to be published? Was it finished before he died?

message 5: by Ivan (last edited Feb 27, 2010 01:42AM) (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Yes. He did want it published, but only after his death. He gave the manuscripts of both "Maurice" and "The Life to Come" to Christopher Isherwood with the instructions to publish after his death. These two volumes were actually well read and circulated for years prior among his close friends. One must remember the climate was quite different during his lifetime as a young man he saw Oscar Wilde jailed for 'Gross Indecency' and fifty years later witnessed the Alan Turing disgrace. He hadn't wanted to 'come out' while his mother was living (and, like him, she lived into her 90s) and later because he didn't want to be questioned and/or have to read about his sexuality, which simply was not a fit topic for public conversation/consumption. I certainly don't think that Forster considered himself 'closeted,' he was quite open about his sexuality with his friends, and among those in the literary world it was an 'open secret' (if you will). However, he was never publicly as open or demonstrative as Strachey, Acklerly or Isherwood.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for answering that, Ivan.

message 7: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I was dipping into E.M. Forster: A New Life earlier this week and read that A Passage to India, published in 1924, was his last novel. He was born in 1879 and died in 1970.

I hadn't realised this and wondered how common it is for a published author to stop writing fiction or switch from one genre to another mid-career?

Maurice, which wasn't published until after his death, was written in 1914. Although I haven't read the book by Wendy Moffat that I mentioned above, the blurb says 'the society of his time would not allow him to publish the fiction he really wanted to write'. But she also says it was one of the great mysteries of his life as to why he stopped writing fiction so that may not be the definitive answer.

message 8: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 140 comments That is very interesting Ruth! I had never realized the long gap between his last novel and his passing. It reminds me of the Finnish composer Sibelius and his last symphony. Now, like you, I wonder about the enigma. It would seem like he was at the very height of his ability in his 50s? "Passage to India" is certainly an impressive work from a psychological perspective.
It seems like the biography you are reading suggests that it was a sexual experience that stopped the prolific writing life. Before his death Forster wrote that “I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or rather published more, but sex prevented the latter.” I guess he discovered the sexual part of himself?

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