The first in a new series at the Paris Review, featuring “underrated and underread” female authors. This one profiles British Novelist Olivia Manning (1908-1980), known best for her novel School for Love and for her Balkan and Levant trilogies. Manning’s books featured less likable women characters, who might have been better appreciated if they were introduced now. A contemporary of Iris Murdoch and Kingsley Amis, she was jealous of their greater fame.
George du Maurier’s Trilby, published in 1894, became one of the most popular novels of its time. The story introduced us to a young heroine, Trilby, and a memorable villain, Svengali, whose names have since taken on lives of their own.
Inspired by her governess, the radical feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret King cast aside her immense privilege, cross-dressed as a man to go to medical school, and inspired a new generation of women to push against the rigid conventions of their era.
The story of an astrologer who claimed in a 1941 keynote address that the stars indicated Hitler would invade the United States from Brazil and eventually be defeated. The astrologer, Louis de Wohl, was actually an agent for the British government:
“What no one realized was that de Wohl’s lecture was pure propaganda from the British government, which was attempting to drag the Roosevelt administration into WWII by any means necessary. De Wohl, who was employed by SOE (Special Operations Executive, the wartime sabotage unit), had been dispatched with instructions to present himself as a renowned astrologer with no connections to Britain, and to undermine America’s belief in the invincibility of Hitler. As the spy novelist William Boyd put it in a 2008 radio interview: ‘At the time, there was a perception of American people, in the minds of the British Security Services, that they were more gullible than us Brits.'”