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Born and educated in Edinburgh, Muriel Spark
(1918-2006) lived in Rhodesia following her marriage in 1937. However, in 1940, she came to realise that her husband was a manic depressive capable of violent
outbursts, so she left him and temporarily placed their son in a convent school. She returned to Britain in 1944 and, following the end of the Second World War, began to write poetry and literary criticism, becoming the editor of Poetry Review (1947-48). In 1954, she converted to Roman Catholicism, which she considered to be a crucial step towards her becoming a novelist. The Comforters (1957) was the first of 22 novels, the most significant of which include Memento Mori (1959), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (her best known work, 1961), The Mandelbaum Gate (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1965) and The Driver’s Seat (1970). Most are short and elegant, with touches of perversity and black humour. In 1993, she became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature. From the early 1970s, she lived in the Tuscan village of Oliveto with the artist, Penelope Jardine.