The Death of Dame Muriel

This morning I was working when I thought, I wonder if Muriel Spark has died, and I went online and put in her name, and yes, she had died in Italy, the news was announced a few hours ago. It’s not that I have morbid powers—I’ve been studying Dame Muriel and a few weeks back I asked her for an interview, through her agent, who told me that the author was not well. Still, now and then in these circumstances one gets a flutter, and when a spirit as dark and powerful and rivetting as Dame Muriel’s goes, it sends waves…

I find the news stunning. A great genius has passed. I don’t think any writer of the last century so combined the literary virtues she had: storytelling, invention, surprise, spiritual depth, psychological insight, wit, and economy. Please tell me who— nobody. It all came together for Spark in a few short years in her late 30s and early 40s (the late 50s and 60s). And then it passed and she became more ordinary. Still in those years she left staggering monuments. Naipaul and Updike were her imitators.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this event in the next day or two. But let me get down my first feelings: Awe, more awe, and celebration.