Thursday, July 17, 2008

Overlook Author Profile: Mervyn Peake

Best known as a writer and illustrator, Mervyn Peake was born on July 9, 1911 to British parents in China and, excluding a brief visit to England, lived there for the first twelve years of his life.

Peake began his career as a painter and applied to be a war artist at the outbreak of World War II. He proposed an exhibition titled, An Exhibition by the Artist, Adolf Hitler that imagined horrific images of war as “art works” by Hitler. The proposal was turned down and Peake was conscripted into the Army.

Beyond his own work, Peake illustrated for the likes of Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Brothers Grimm, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Peake died on November 17, 1968, after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. His work, however, has lived on in various incarnations:

His characters have been portrayed in numerous film, stage, and radio adaptations of his work by actors such as Sting, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Christoper Lee, Stephen Fry, and Terry Jones.

In 1998, the Gormenghast novels were turned into an opera, which premiered in Wuppertal, Germany.

The song “The Drowning Man,” by The Cure, was inspired by the events of Gormenghast.

Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone, which make up the Gormenghast novels, Peake’s greatest achievement, are now available from Overlook in individual volumes or in one single volume.

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