At about the beginning of the 1980s, Britain’s literary culture in respect of the novel began to undergo a series of rapid and fascinating changes. Prior to this time – in other words during the immediate post-war period until well into the 1970s – Britain’s serious literary novelists were likely to achieve notice through either (a) the production of one title that captured the public imagination, or (b) a steady output that contrived to reach a faithful, and usually increasing, readership. Among the best-known examples of the former are the successes of William Golding and John Fowles. Golding’s Lord of the Flies first appeared in 1954; by the 1960s it had become a ‘set text’ both in Britain and overseas. By the 1980s Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) had taken its place in academe as Britain’s best-known postmodernist novel. Both books were subsequently filmed, Fowles’s novel more recently and famously as we have seen, than Golding’s (although it was Peter Brook who wrote the screenplay for Lord of the Flies). Well-known examples of the latter category of steady output include the achievements of Graham Greene from the 1940s onwards, and Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark from the 1950s onwards.
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