David Lindsay

David Lindsay (1876-1945) was a Scottish author now most famous for the philosophical science fiction novel A Voyage to Arcturus. Lindsay was born into a middle-class Scottish Calvinist family who had moved to London, tho growing up he spent much time in Jedburgh, where his family was from. Altho awarded a university scholarship, he was forced by poverty to enter business, becoming a Lloyd's of London insurance clerk. He was very successful but, after serving in WWI, at age forty, he moved to Cornwall with his young wife, Jacqueline Silver, to become a full-time writer. He published A Voyage to Arcturus in 1920. It sold 596 copies before being remaindered. This extremely strange work was not obviously influenced by anyone, but further reading shows links with other Scottish fantasists (e.g., Geo. MacDonald). It was in its turn a central influence on C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet. Lindsay attempted to write more commercially with his next work The Haunted Woman (1922), but this was barely more successful than Voyage. He continued writing novels, including the humorous potboiler The Adventures of Monsieur de Mailly, but after Devil's Tor in 1932 he found publication increasingly difficult & spent much time on his last work The Witch, published posthumously. He & his wife opened a Brighton boarding house. They did not prosper & their marriage underwent considerable strain. The house was damaged by the first bomb to fall on Brighton in WWII. In his bath at the time, Lindsay never recovered from the shock. His death from infection caused by a tooth abscess was unrelated to the bomb. A Voyage to Arcturus has been described as the major underground novel of the 20th century. The secret of Lindsay's apparent strangeness lies in his metaphysical assumptions. A gnostic, he viewed the "real" world as an illusion which must be rejected in order to perceive genuine truth. In The Haunted Woman, the two main characters discover a room which exists only some of the time. Together there they see more clearly & express themselves honestly. In The Violet Apple, the fruit is that eaten by Adam & Eve. The description of its effects is a startling, lyrical episode in a novel otherwise concerned with ordinary matters. Lindsay's austere vision of reality may have been influenced by Scandinavian mythology. After being out of print for decades, his work has become increasingly available. He is now seen as being a major Scottish fantasist of the 20th century, the missing link between George Macdonald, & modern writers such as Alasdair Gray who have also used surrealism & magic realism. Arcturus was produced as a 35mm feature film by William J. Holloway in 1971. It was the first film funded by a National Endowment for the Arts & has recently been re-released. Harold Bloom has also been interested, even obsessed, with Lindsay's life & career, going as far as to publish The Flight to Lucifer, which he thought of as a Bloomian misprision, an homage & deep revision of Arcturus. Bloom admits his late-comer imitation is overwhelmed by Lindsay's great original.Bibliography:A Voyage to Arcturus, 1920 The Haunted Woman, 1922 Sphinx, 1923 The Adventures of Monsieur de Mailly, 1926 Devil's Tor, 1932 The Violet Apple & The Witch, 1976 A Christmas Play, 2003 Further reading: The Strange Genius of David Lindsay: An Appreciation by J. B. Pick, E. H. Visiak & Colin Wilson, 1970 The Life & Works of David Lindsay by Bernard Sellin, 1983 David Lindsay's Vision by David Power, 2005
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