Kingsley Amis

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Sir Kingsley William Amis, CBE (16 April 1922 – 22 October 1995) was an English novelist, poet, critic and teacher. He wrote more than 20 novels, six volumes of poetry, a memoir, and various short stories, radio and television scripts, along with works of social and literary criticism. According to his biographer, Zachary Leader, Amis was "the finest British comic novelist of the second half of the twentieth century." He was the father of the English novelist Martin Amis.[1]

In 2008, The Times ranked Kingsley Amis ninth on their list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.[2]



Kingsley Amis was born in Clapham, south London, the son of William Robert Amis, a mustard manufacturer's clerk.[3] He was educated at the City of London School, and in April, 1941 was admitted to St. John's College, Oxford, where he read English. It was there that he met Philip Larkin, with whom he formed the most important friendship of his life. After only a year, in July 1942, he was called up for national service. After serving in the Royal Corps of Signals in the Second World War, Amis returned to Oxford in October 1945 to complete his degree. Although he worked hard and earned a 1947 first in English, he had by then decided to give much of his time to writing. In 1946, he became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

In 1946 he met Hilary Bardwell, and they married in 1948 after she became pregnant with their first child, Philip. Amis initially arranged for her to have a back-street abortion, but changed his mind, fearing for her safety. He became a lecturer in English at the University of Wales Swansea (1949–1961).[4] Two other children followed: Martin in August 1949 and Sally in January 1954. Just days after Sally's birth, Amis' first novel Lucky Jim was published to great acclaim; critics saw it as having caught the flavour of Britain in the 1950s, ushering in a new style of fiction.[5] By 1972, in addition to impressive sales in Britain, one and a quarter million paperback copies had been sold in the United States, and it was eventually translated into twenty languages, including Czech, Hebrew, Korean, and Serbo-Croat.[6] The novel won the Somerset Maugham Award for fiction and Amis was associated with the writers labelled the Angry Young Men. Lucky Jim was the first British campus novel, setting a precedent for later generations of writers such as Malcolm Bradbury, David Lodge, Tom Sharpe and Howard Jacobson. As a poet, Amis was associated with The Movement.

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