Thursday, May 19, 2011

'angry young man' bill hopkins has died

photo by Ida Kar: National Portrait Gallery

Heard from a friend that London novelist Bill Hopkins, 83 this year, has died. An endearing character and a familiar figure in the streets and cafes of Notting Hill, where he lived for many years, Bill was in the 1950s one of the "angry young men" - the group of writers that included Kingsley Amis, John Braine, John Osborne,John Wain and Colin Wilson. A book of interviews conducted by Dale Salwak with the angry young men was published in 1998. Bill is the face on the top right of the cover picture - quite a heartbreaker in his time apparently. Only one of his novels was published: The Divine and the Decay (1957) also known as The Leap. Jonthan Bowden wrote a critique of the novel , and interviewed Bill. According to Bowden: "His greatest literary achievement - stands revealed as a Bildungsroman of the anti-Left; a premonitory explosion; a lightening-flash which reveals a terra incognita; an intrusion into the Zeitgeist; a ‘storm of steel’ against liberal evasion." The novel was first published in 1957 . Colin Wilson wrote the introduction to the republished issue, as The Leap, in 1984, noting that the novel had been "attacked with unprecedented ferocity on its first publication". Bowden says it is an interesting book in all sorts of ways, a fantasy "about a man who essentially gets up in the morning and decides woke up and decided that he wants to be dicator of Britain, and how will he go about morally, aesthetically, intellectually, and ideolgoically becoming a man who is worthy of to be dictator of Britain. It's based on the Nietszchean idea that artists of genius should rule... it is based upon ideas that are completely heretical and blasphemous..." and which didn't go down well in post-war austerity Britain.
Bill recounted his memories in the video below, for the psychogeographical project London Art Tripping. He was born in Wales (although he claimed to hate the Welsh) and his father Ted Hopkins was a popular stage performer (& Bill had something of an actorly voice), and Bill still liked to keep up with the profession through eg reading The Stage newspaper.

Bill was the subject of several photographs by(his one-time landlady) Ida Kar, three of which are in the National Portrait Gallery online collection including the one below:

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