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British novelist Olivia Manning was born on this date in 1908, and died in 1980. Elizabeth Gumport revisited Manning’s work in 2009, when New York Review of Books Classics reissued Manning’s 1951 novel, School for Love. It was an odd selection, as it had never been published in the United states. “The question isn’t why Manning,” Gumport explained, “but why School for Love, and why now?”
Manning married Reginald Smith, a member of the British Council, in 1939, and joined him when he was dispatched to Romania, Athens, Cairo, Alexandria, and then Jerusalem, where the novel takes place—Gumport describes it as “what the world we see on television used to look like.” Of Felix Latimer, the novel’s teenaged, orphaned protagonist, she writes,
Felix’s struggle for independence—to think and act wholly for himself—mirrors another: during the first miserable days at Miss Bohun’s house, Felix thinks his life is like “the Jerusalem winter,” something to be “suffered and got over.” The simile gives Felix’s personal journey allegorical heft: the self is like the state, and the story of the former is also the story of the latter. If you want to understand people, Manning suggests, a single person is a good place to start.
Read Where the Heart Is, by Elizabeth Gumport
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.