In a list just published of the 50 best authors published since 1945 The Times
of London includes Mervyn Peake. Among other well-known novelists on the list is Anthony Burgess who enthused, after reading the novels . .'it is, (Gormenghast
) if you like, a rich wine of fancy chilled by the intellect to just the right temperature. There is no really close relative to it in all our prose literature. It is uniquely brilliant, and
we are right to call it a modern classic'.
This is how The Times
The fantastical English Bildungsroman with crossover appeal is nothing new: long before Harry and Hogwarts, Peake gave us Titus Groan and Gormenghast. He also gave us paintings, illustrations (including of Alice in Wonderland) poems, plays and photographs. Peake grew up in China, and Beijing’s stone bestiary and the Yangtze’s hidden gorges are as much progenitors of Gormenghast as Arundel Castle, in whose shadow he lived, and his life-changing experiences as a war artist at Belsen. The story of Gormenghast, that impossible, ritualised castle, was to have been the beginning of a much longer series, but Parkinson’s disease denied it to us. Peake’s legacy lives on not only in the Parkinson’s Society’s Mervyn Peake Award, but in his grandson, the rising musical star Jack Peñate, equally at home as an illustrator and writer.