This Day In Literary History
On April 20th, 1953, the famous English writer Sebastian Faulks was born in Newbury, England. His father Peter Faulks was a lawyer and decorated World War II veteran who became a judge. His maternal grandfather was a decorated veteran of World War I.
Sebastian Faulks would not follow in the family tradition and become a lawyer or a judge. His first ambition was to be a taxi driver.
Then, at the age of fifteen, he read George Orwell and determined to become a novelist. He first attended Wellington College, then studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he would later be elected as an honorary fellow.
After university, Faulks took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School. He also took up journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.
Later, he would be recruited as Literary Editor by The Independent, then become Deputy Editor of its Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday. He would also write columns for The Guardian and The Evening Standard.
Sebastian Faulks' first published novel was released in 1984. It was titled A Trick of the Light. Had it not been published, Faulks claimed he would have given up on writing, as two previous novels had been rejected.
While A Trick of the Light wasn't hugely successful, it did get the author noticed. His next novel, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, made his name as a writer.
The first in a trilogy of novels - the French Trilogy - The Girl at the Lion d'Or was set in 1930s France. It told the story of Anne Louvert, a French girl left orphaned and homeless when her legal guardian abandons her after she refuses to be his mistress.
This so-called guardian was a Nazi sympathizer who moved to America, deserting his right wing comrades as well as Anne. She finds work at the village inn, The Lion d'Or, where she meets Charles Hartmann, a kind, sensitive, wealthy older Jewish man.
Hartmann is a decorated veteran of the Great War, where Anne's father was executed for mutiny, an event that drove her mother to suicide. Although Hartmann is married, he and Anne fall in love and have a passionate affair.
When Hartmann ends the affair, Anne is devastated but refuses to commit suicide like her mother did. Instead, she courageously faces the dark days ahead, as the rise of the Nazis threatens France.
The second novel in Sebastian Faulks' French Trilogy, Birdsong (1993), proved to be a huge commercial success, selling three million copies. Ten years after its publication, it would be ranked at #13 on the BBC's "Big Read" list of Britain's 200 best loved novels.
Birdsong told the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman living in France just before the outbreak of World War I, as his granddaughter Elizabeth researches his experiences during the Great War.
The third volume of the French Trilogy, Charlotte Gray, was published in 1998. The tale of a young Scotswoman's involvement with the French Resistance during World War II was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 2001, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.
Faulks' 2001 novel On Green Dolphin Street was a Cold War drama set in the 1950s. The main character, Mary van der Linden, is the wife of a British diplomat stationed in Washington. Her husband Charlie is a talented and effective diplomat.
Unfortunately, he's also a self-loathing alcoholic suffering from existential angst. When Mary meets American journalist Frank Renzo at a party, he becomes attracted to her. They have an affair, which troubles Mary deeply, as she still loves her husband. She finds herself torn between both men.
Faulks continues to write great novels. In 2007, he was commissioned by the trustees of the Ian Fleming estate to write an official James Bond novel. The result, Devil May Care, was published in 2008 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Fleming's birth.
Set in the 1960s, the novel pitted the legendary British secret agent against the evil Dr. Gorner, a manufacturer of legitimate pharmaceuticals who plans to flood Europe with cheap narcotics and launch a terrorist attack against the Soviet Union, the retaliation for which would devastate the UK.
Faulks' most recent novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat, was released this January. Set in London circa 1980, it tells the story of Dr. Robert Hendricks, a psychiatrist and writer who has plunged into a quagmire of loneliness and depression.
Then he receives a letter from Dr. Alexander Pereira, a neurologist and World War I veteran, who proclaims his admiration for Hendricks' published work. Hendricks travels to Pereira's home on a secluded island off the South of France to meet him.
There, Hendricks is forced to confront his traumatic memories of the carnage and injury he experienced as a young British officer during World War II and of the Italian woman he met and fell deeply in love with during the conflict. Confronting these memories could lead Hendricks to insanity - or redemption.
Sebastian Faulks has also written nonfiction works. He remains one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom.
Quote Of The Day
"The difference between a peasant community in fourteenth-century Iran and modern London, though, is that if with their meager resources the villagers occasionally slipped backward, it was not for lack of trying. But with us, here in England, it was a positive choice. We chose to know less." - Sebastian Faulks
Today's video features Sebastian Faulks reading from and discussing his most recent novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat on BBC Newsnight. Enjoy!