February Members’ Event: A Tribute to V.S. Pritchett

Sir V. S. Pritchett, from the cover of 'A Working Life'
Sir V. S. Pritchett, from the cover of ‘A Working Life’
I should like to think that a writer just celebrates being alive. I shall be sorry to die, but the notion of seeing life celebrated from day to day is so wonderful that I can’t see the point of believing anything else.

So said Sir V. S. Pritchett (1990-1997) to a journalist in 1995, summing up a long life lived fully, utterly dedicated to the close observation of his fellow human beings and the subsequent formation of his fabulous oeuvre.

Harriet Walter reads V.S.Pritchett
Harriet Walter reads V.S.Pritchett
Actress Harriet Walter began the evening by reading a story to the assembled crowd. Quintessential Pritchett, ‘Just a Little More’ describes a family gathering for Sunday lunch. On the surface it’s a straightforward evocation of a universally familiar situation, but Walter’s reading fully brought out all the attendant subtleties of the work, particularly the adroit portrait of the central father figure – a recurrent character in Pritchett’s work, and based on his own father.

Oliver Pritchett, Al Alvarez & Jeremy Treglown
Oliver Pritchett, Al Alvarez & Jeremy Treglown
Biographer Jeremy Treglown, author of V.S Pritchett – A Working Life and editor of Pritchett’s short story collection Essential Stories, son and critic Oliver Pritchett, and long-time friend (not to mention poet, critic and novelist) Al Alvarez made up the panel. Matt Pritchett, grandson of VSP, was also in the audience and seemed to relish the evening’s subject matter. The group between them were able to provide a full and fascinating insight into Pritchett’s output and his working methods, as well as his personal life and character. An easy, relaxed discussion ensued, which at times bordered on the pleasantly nostalgic; Pritchett’s observations on PEN Congresses during his time as President of English and International PEN (as well as observations on Pritchett’s expertise or otherwise at chair-stacking by then-secretary Josephine Pullein-Thompson) were particularly wryly amusing for many in the audience. All in all, the evening provided something for everyone: an augmenting of extant memories and appreciation to those who knew Pritchett and his work, an intriguing introduction for new converts.

Report by Tanya Andrews

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/atributetovspritchett/

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