26 Apr 2010

British author Alan Sillitoe dies

8:11 am on 26 April 2010

Alan Sillitoe, one of the "Angry Young Men" of British fiction whose gritty realism vividly portrayed working-class life after World War II, died in London on Sunday. He was 82.

Sillitoe, born in Nottingham, dealt with factories, backstreet housing and everyday conflicts in works including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1958 and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner in 1959, both of which were made into major films, Reuters reports.

Sillitoe, whose provincial realism was associated with the "kitchen sink" dramas of the 1950s, left school at 14 and worked in factories in Nottingham before joining the air force as a wireless operator in what was then Malaya.

But he became ill with tuberculosis and was confined to hospital for 18 months, during which time he began to write novels. His works also including poetry, children's books, and stage and television plays.

When he recovered he travelled to France and Spain. "He famously showed his work to a great poet, Robert Graves, who said 'Write about what you know', and in the end he started writing about Nottingham and that's where he achieved his fame," poet Ian McMillan told the BBC.

One of his most memorable observations about his trade was: "The art of writing is to explain complications of the human soul with a simplicity that can be universally understood."

The award-winning writer was married to the American poet Ruth Fainlight, with whom he had David, and adopted daughter Susan.

In 1995, his autobiography Life Without Armour was well received. In 2007, he published Gadfly - an account of his travels in Russia.

In 2008, he was recognised for his Nottingham roots and given freedom of the city.