William Sansom

Sansom was born in London and educated at Uppingham School, Rutland, before moving to Bonn to learn German.From 1930 onwards, Sansom worked in international banking for the British chapter of a German bank, but moved to an advertising company in 1935, where he worked until the outbreak of World War II. At this time he became a full-time London firefighter, serving throughout The Blitz. His experiences during this time inspired much of his writing, including many of the stories found in the celebrated collection Fireman Flower. He also appeared in Humphrey Jennings's famous film about the Blitz, Fires Were Started- Sansom is the fireman who plays the piano.After the war, Sansom became a full-time writer. In 1946 and 1947 he was awarded two literary prizes by the Society of Authors, and in 1951 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He married actress Ruth Grundy.As well as exploring war-torn London, Sansom's writing deals with romance (The Face of Innocence), murder ('Various Temptations'), comedy ('A Last Word') and supernatural horror ('A Woman Seldom Found'). The latter, perhaps his most anthologized story, combines detailed description with narrative tension to unravel a young man's encounter with a bizarre creature in Rome.Sansom died in London.From the Independent, October 2008:"..William Sansom was once described as London's closest equivalent to Franz Kafka. He wrote in hallucinatory detail, bringing every image into pin-sharp focus. It was his strength and weakness; it made his stories hauntingly memorable, but his technique often left his characters feeling under-developed.His style was as cool and painstaking as that of Henry Green, also a wartime firefighter. His 1944 collection Fireman Flower, and Other Short Stories may be his pinnacle. In "The Little Room", a nun waits for death after being bricked up in her windowless cell for an unnamed transgression. To make her fate worse, a meter on the wall marks the incremental loss of the air in the room, and Sansom describes her changing state of mind with passion and clinical precision.The 1948 novella "The Equilibriad" owes a little too much to Kafka but shares the same strangeness, as the hero awakes to find himself able to walk only at a 45-degree angle. Sansom was also good with an opening hook. One story starts, "How did the three boys ever come to spend their lives in the water-main junction?"Sansom's publisher described his work as "modern fables", but what makes them so ripe for rediscovery is their freshness and currency. His characters face inscrutable futures with patience and resignation, knowing that they can do little to influence the outcome of their lives. Sometimes terrible events, such as the collapse of a burning wall, slow down and expand to engulf the reader..."http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...Christine Brooke-Rose shares short story space with Sansom in Winter Tales no 8, and homages him in The Languages of Love.
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