Celebrating the genius of Muriel Spark

The manuscript of one of Scotland’s most famous novels that was made into an Oscar-winning film has returned home to take pride of place in a free exhibition at the National Library of Scotland celebrating the life of Dame Muriel Spark.

Muriel Spark Exhibition

The handwritten pages in four plain exercise jotters bought from James Thin’s bookshop in Edinburgh gave birth to one of the great characters of modern literature – Miss Jean Brodie in her prime.

It was written in Edinburgh in just four weeks in late 1960 and its publication the following year was to propel Spark to international success. Such is its significance that the manuscript is now owned by the University of Tulsa but it has been loaned to the National Library for the exhibition along with the manuscript of Spark’s own favourite novel, The Driver’s Seat.

Spark was born Muriel Camberg on 1 February 1918. She was a poet, writer of fiction, criticism and literary biography. Best-known as the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, she was at the top of her profession, internationally, for more than half a century and went on to win many literary awards. She received a number of honorary degrees, and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993.

Never out of print she wrote many well-known novels including The Driver’s Seat, The Girls of Slender Means and Momento Mori. Her work found critical approval, and her novels, where the supernatural and the surreal come into collision – and collusion – with the everyday, helped to change the face of fiction in the English language.

The International Style of Muriel Spark runs from 8 December 8- 13 May at the National Library of Scotland. The free exhibition is one of the main events in Muriel Spark 100, a year-long programme of activity to celebrate the centenary. It is organised jointly by the Library and Creative Scotland.

  • Full feature in Issue No.12