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Alan Sillitoe
Born 4 March 1928 (1928-03-04) (age 82)
Nottingham, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Ruth Fainlight

Alan Sillitoe (born 4 March, 1928) is an English writer, one of the "Angry Young Men" of the 1950s (although he, in common with most of the other writers to whom the label was applied, has never welcomed it).



Sillitoe was born in Nottingham, to working class parents. Like Arthur Seaton, the anti-hero of Sillitoe's first novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, his father worked in the Raleigh factory.

He left school at the age of 14 and spent his time reading.[1] He served in the Royal Air Force, where he was a wireless operator. After returning to England from Malaya, he was discovered to have tuberculosis and he spent sixteen months in an RAF hospital.[2]

Pensioned off at 21 on 45 shillings a week, he lived in France and Spain for seven years in an attempt to recover. In 1955, whilst living in Mallorca with his lover, American poet Ruth Fainlight, and in contact with the poet Robert Graves, Sillitoe commenced work on Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which was published in 1958. Influenced in --part by the stripped-down prose of Hemingway, the book conveys the attitudes and situation of a young factory worker faced with the inevitable end of his youthful philandering. As with John Osborne's Look Back in Anger and John Braine's Room at the Top, the novel's real subject was the disillusionment of post-war Britain, and the lack of opportunities for the working class. It was adapted as a film by Karel Reisz in 1960, with Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton.

His story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, which concerns the rebellion of a borstal boy with a talent for running, won the Hawthornden Prize in 1959. It was also adapted to film in 1962, this time directed by Tony Richardson, and starring Tom Courtenay.

In 1990, he was awarded an honorary degree from Nottingham Trent University. The city's older, prestigious Russell Group university, The University of Nottingham, also awarded Sillitoe an honorary DLitt degree in 1994, and in 2006 his best known play was staged at the University's Lakeside Arts theatre in an in-house production.

Sillitoe has written many novels, and several volumes of poetry. His 1995 autobiography, Life Without Armour was critically acclaimed on publication, and offers a view into his squalid childhood.

In 2007 Gadfly in Russia, an account of his travels in Russia spanning 40 years, was published. In 2008 London Books republished A Start in Life as part of their London Classics series and to mark the author's 80th birthday. He was honoured with an appearance on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on 25 January 2009.

Sillitoe is married to Ruth Fainlight, lives in London and has two children.


  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. London: Allen, 1958; New York: Knopf, 1959. New edition with an introduction by Sillitoe, commentary and notes by David Craig. In the Longman edition (1976) there is a sequence of Nottingham photographs, and stills from the film, Harlow
  • The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. London: Allen, 1959; New York: Knopf, 1960.
  • The General. London: Allen, 1960; New York: Knopf, 1961.
  • Key to the Door. London: Allen, 1961; New York: Knopf, 1962; reprinted, with a new preface by Sillitoe, London: Allen, 1978.
  • Road To Volgograd. London: Allen, 1964; New York: Knopf, 1964.
  • The Death of William Posters. London: Allen, 1965; New York: Knopf, 1965.
  • The City Adventures of Marmalade Jim. London: Macmillan, 1967; Toronto: Macmillan, 1967; revised edition, London: Robson, 1977.
  • A Tree on Fire. London: Macmillan, 1967; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968.
  • A Sillitoe Selection: Eight Short Stories,. London: Longman, 1968.
  • A Start in Life. London: Allen, 1970; New York: Scribners, 1971.
  • Travels in Nihilon. London: Allen, 1971; New York: Scribners, 1972.
  • Raw Material. London: Allen, 1972; New York: Scribners, 1973; rev. ed., London: Pan Books, 1974; further revised, London: Star Books, 1978; further revised, London: Allen, 1979.
  • Men, Women and Children. London: Allen, 1973; New York: Scribners, 1974.
  • From Canto Two of The Rats. Wittersham, Kent: Alan Sillitoe, 1973.
  • Somme. London: Steam Press, 1974. In Steam Press Portfolio, no. 2. 50 copies.
  • The Flame of Life. London: Allen, 1974.
  • Down to the Bone. Exeter: Wheaton, 1976.
  • Day-Dream Communiqué. Knotting, Bedfordshire: Sceptre Press, 1977. 150 copies.
  • Big John and the Stars. London: Robson, 1977.
  • The Widower's Son. Allen, 1976; New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
  • The Incredible Fencing Fleas. London: Robson, 1978.
  • The Storyteller. London: Allen, 1979; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980.
  • Marmalade Jim at the Farm. London: Robson, 1980.
  • More Lucifer. Knotting, Bedfordshire: Martin Booth, 1980. 125 copies.
  • Her Victory. London: Granada, 1982; New York: Watts, 1982.
  • The Lost Flying Boat. London: Granada, 1983; Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.
  • The Saxon Shore Way: From Gravesend to Rye. by Sillitoe and Fay Godwin. London: Hutchinson, 1983.
  • Down from the Hill. London: Granada, 1984.
  • Marmalade Jim and the Fox. London: Robson, 1984.
  • Life Goes On. London: Granada, 1985.
  • Out of the Whirlpool. London: Hutchinson, 1987.
  • The Open Door. London: Grafton/Collins, 1989.
  • Last Loves. London: Grafton, 1990; Boston: Chivers, 1991.
  • Leonard's War A Love Story. London: HarperCollins, 1991.
  • Shylock the Writer. London: Turret Bookshop, 1991.
  • The Mentality of the Picaresque Hero. London: Turret Bookshop, 1993, Turret Papers, no. 2. 500 copies
  • Snowstop. London: HarperCollins, 1993.
  • Life Without Armour. London: HarperCollins, 1995.
  • The Broken Chariot. London: Flamingo/HarperCollins, 1998.
  • The German Numbers Woman. London: Flamingo/HarperCollins, 1999.
  • Birthday. London: Flamingo/HarperCollins, 2001.
  • A Man of His Time. Harper Perennial, 2005. ISBN 0007173288; ISBN 9780007173280


The film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, directed by Tony Richardson and starring Tom Courtenay, was set in a borstal. Released in 1962, the film was based on a book of the same name by Alan Sillitoe.


  • Chopin’s Winter in Majorca 1838-1839, by Luis Ripall, translated by Sillitoe. Palma de Majorca: Mossen Alcover, 1955.
  • Chopin’s Pianos: The Pleyel in Majorca, by Luis Ripall, translated by Sillitoe. Palma de Majorca: Mossen Alcover, 1958.
  • All Citizens Are Soldiers (Fuente Ovejuna): A Play in Two Acts, by Lope de Vega translated by Sillitoe and Ruth Fainlight. London: Macmillan, 1969; Chester Springs, PA: Dufour, 1969.
  • Poems for Shakespeare, volume 7, edited and translated by Sillitoe and Ruth Fainlight. London: Bear Gardens Museum & Arts Centre, 1980.


  • Without Beer or Bread. Dulwich Village: Outposts, 1957.
  • The Rats and Other Poems. London: Allen, 1960.
  • Falling Out of Love and Other Poems. London; Allen, 1964; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964.
  • Shaman: And Other Poems". Turret, 1968 Limited ed. of 500 copies 100 copies signed and numbered.
  • Love in the Environs of Voronezh and Other Poems. London: Macmillan, 1968; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969.
  • Poems. by Sillitoe, Ruth Fainlight and Ted Hughes London: Rainbow Press, 1971. 300 copies
  • Barbarians and Other Poems. London: Turret Books, 1973. 500 copies
  • Storm: New Poems. London: Allen, 1974.
  • From Snow on the North Side of Lucifer. Knotting, Bedfordshire: Sceptre Press, 1979. 150 Copies
  • Snow on the North Side of Lucifer: Poems. London: Allen, 1979
  • Poems for Shakespeare 7. Bear Gardens Museum and Arts Centre, 1979 Limited to 500 copies all copies are numbered
  • Sun Before Departure: Poems, 1974-1982. London: Granada, 1984
  • Tides and Stone Walls: Poems, with photographs by Victor Bowley London: Grafton, 1986.
  • Three Poems. Child Okefurd, Dorset: Words Press, 1988. 200 copies.
  • Collected Poems. London: HarperCollins, 1993.


  • Mountains and Caverns: Selected Essays. London: Allen, 1975
  • Words Broadsheet Nineteen. by Sillitoe and Ruth Fainlight. Bramley, Surrey: Words Press, 1975. Broadside.
  • “The Interview”. London: The 35s (Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry), 1976.
  • Israel: Poems on a Hebrew Theme, with drawings by Ralph Steadman London: Steam Press, 1981. 98 copies.
  • Alan Sillitoe’s Nottinghamshire, with photographs by David Sillitoe. London: Grafton, 1987.


  • Three Plays. London: Allen, 1978 Contains The Slot-Machine, The Interview, Pit Strike


  • Every Day of the Week: An Alan Sillitoe Reader. with an introduction by John Sawkins London: Allen, 1987.
  • Collected Stories. London: Flamingo, 1995.

Collections of Stories

  • The Ragman’s Daughter and Other Stories. London: Allen, 1963; New York: Knopf, 1964.
  • Guzman, Go Home, and Other Stories. London: Macmillan, 1968; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969; reprinted, with a new preface by Sillitoe, London; Allen, 1979.
  • Men, Women and Children. London: Allen, 1973; New York: Scribners, 1974.
  • The Second Chance and Other Stories. London: Cape, 1981; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981.
  • The Far Side of the Street: Fifteen Short Stories. London: Allen, 1988.
  • Alligator Playground: A Collection of Short Stories. Flamingo, 1997 ISBN 0006550738


  • Life Without Armour. (HarperCollins, 1995) ISBN 0002555700 ISBN 9780002555708
    • Contents
      • The General Other Poems
        • Kedah, D. H. Lawrence, Nottingham
      • Men Women and Children All Citizens are Soldiers with Ruth
        • Mike Edmonds, Majorca, Malaga
      • Out of the Whirlpool
        • Karel Reisz, Rosica, Albert Finney

Further reading

  • Gerard, David E. and H.W. Wilson. Alan Sillitoe: A Bibliography. 1986; Mansell, 1988 ISBN 0887361048 Mansell. ISBN 0720118298 H.W. Wilson
  • Penner, Allen R. Alan Sillitoe. Thomson Gale, 1983. ISBN 0805714960
  • Vaverka, Ronald Dee. Commitment As Art. (1978 Dissertation, Uppsala Univ).
  • Atherton, S. S. Alan Sillitoe: A Critical Assessment (1979).
  • The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century. Contributor Jeremy Hawthorn (E. Arnold, 1984)
  • Gerard, David. Alan Sillitoe: A Bibliography. Greenwood Pub Group, 1988. ISBN 0713164158 ISBN 9780713164152
  • Hitchcock, Peter. Working-class Fiction in Theory and Practice. ISBN 0835719766 ISBN 9780313276729
  • Hanson, Gillian Mary. Understanding Alan Sillitoe. South Carolina Press, 1999. ISBN 157003219X
  • Sawkins, John. The Long Apprenticeship: Alienation in the Early Work of Alan Sillitoe. Peter Lang, 2001. ISBN 3906764508
  • Bradford, Richard. The Life of a Long-distance Writer: The Biography of Alan Sillitoe. ISBN 978 0 7206 13179


  1. ^ Desert Island Discs, BBC4, 25 January 2009.
  2. ^ Pegasos - A literature related site in Finland,

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Alan Sillitoe (born 1928-03-04) is an English novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, essayist and poet, who first came to prominence as one of the Angry Young Men of the 1950s.


  • Government wars aren't my wars; they've got nowt to do with me, because my own war's all that I'll ever be bothered about.
  • I realized it might be possible to do such a thing, run for money, trot for wages on piece work at a bob a puff rising bit by bit to a guinea a gasp and retiring through old age at thirty-two because of lace-curtain lungs, a football heart, and legs like varicose beanstalks.
    • "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner", from New and Collected Stories (1958; repr. London: Robson, 2003) p. 24.
  • Everybody thinks they'll never get married at your age. So did Jack, he told me. You think you can go on all your life being single, I remember he said, but you suddenly find out that you can't.
  • You can always rely on a society of equals taking it out on the women.
    • The Death of William Posters (London: W. H. Allen, 1965) p. 87.


  • Makes Room at the Top look like a vicarage tea-party.
    • The Daily Telegraph, reviewing Saturday Night and Sunday Morning; cited from The Bookseller, October 25, 1958, p. 1641.
    • Also used as a tagline for the 1960 film adaptation.

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