Hope, Christopher 1944- (Christopher David Tully Hope)
Hope, Christopher 1944- (Christopher David Tully Hope)
Born February 26, 1944, in Johannesburg, South Africa; son of Dudley Mitford (a banker) and Kathleen Margaret (a bookkeeper) Hope; married Eleanor Marilyn Margaret Klein (a music administrator), February 18, 1967 (divorced); children: Jasper Antony, Daniel Clement. Education: University of Witwatersrand, B.A., 1965, M.A., 1971; University of Natal, B.A. (with honors), 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, walking, cross-country skiing.
Agent—Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England.
Author of novels, short stories, children's fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. South British Insurance, Johannesburg, South Africa, underwriter, 1966; Nasionale Pers (publishers), Cape Town, South Africa, editor, 1966-67; Durban Sunday Tribune, reviewer, 1968-69; Lintas, Durban, South Africa, copywriter, 1967-69, and in Durban and Johannesburg, 1973-75; Lindsay Smithers, Durban, South Africa, copywriter, 1971; Halesowen Secondary Modern School, English teacher, 1972; Bolt, Durban, South Africa, editor, 1972-73; Gordonstoun School, Elgin, Scotland, writer-in-residence, 1978. Founder, Franschhoek Literary Festival, 2007. Military service: South African Navy, 1962.
International PEN, Authors League of America, Society of Authors.
Pringle Award, English Academy of Southern Africa, 1972, for creative writing; Cholmondeley Award for poetry, British Society of Authors, 1977; Professor Alexander Petrie Award, Convocation of the University of Natal, 1981, for "outstanding contribution to the arts and humanities"; David Higham Memorial Prize for Fiction, National Book League of Great Britain, 1981, for A Separate Development; Silver Pen Award, International PEN, 1982, for Private Parts and Other Tales; Arts Council bursary, 1982; Mother Goose Award runner-up (with Yehudi Menuhin), 1984, for The King, the Cat, and the Fiddle; Whitbread Book of the Year for Fiction, Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland, 1985, for Kruger's Alp; CNA Award, Booksellers Association of South Africa, 1989, for White Boy Running; Royal Society of Literature, fellow, 1990; PEN Award, 1990, for Moscow! Moscow!; shortlist, Booker Prize, 1992, for Serenity House; Travelex Travel Writer of the Year, 1997.
NOVELS; EXCEPT AS INDICATED
A Separate Development, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1980, Scribner (New York, NY), 1981.
Private Parts and Other Tales (short stories), Bateleur Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1981.
Kruger's Alp, Heinemann (London, England), 1984, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.
The Hottentot Room, Heinemann (London, England), 1986, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.
Black Swan (novella), illustrated by Gillian Barlow, Hutchinson (London, England), 1987, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1988.
My Chocolate Redeemer, Minerva (London, England), 1989.
Serenity House, Macmillan (London, England), 1992.
The Love Songs of Nathan J. Swirsky, Macmillan London Limited (London, England), 1993.
Darkest England, Norton (New York, NY), 1996.
Me, the Moon, and Elvis Presley, Macmillan (London, England), 1997.
Signs of the Heart: Love and Death in Languedoc, Macmillan (London, England), 1999.
Heaven Forbid, Macmillan (London, England), 2001.
My Mother's Lovers, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2007.
(With Mike Kirkwood) Whitewashes, privately printed, 1970.
Cape Drives, London Magazine Editions (London, England), 1974.
In the Country of the Black Pig and Other Poems, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1981.
Englishmen: A Poem, Heinemann (London, England), 1985.
(Editor) Yehudi Menuhin, The Compleat Violinist, Summit (New York, NY), 1986.
White Boy Running (memoir), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1988.
Moscow! Moscow! (travel), General, 1990.
Brothers under the Skin: Travels in Tyranny, Macmillan (London, England), 2003.
(With Yehudi Menuhin) The King, the Cat, and the Fiddle, illustrated by Angela Barrett, Holt (New York, NY), 1983.
The Dragon Wore Pink, illustrated by Angela Barrett, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1985, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1986.
Ducktails, South African Television, 1976.
Bye-Bye Booysens, South African Television, 1977.
An Entirely New Concept in Packaging, South African Television, 1978.
Englishmen (poem for voices), BBC Radio, 1986.
Box on the Ear, BBC Radio, 1987.
Better Halves, BBC Radio, 1988.
Work anthologized in On the Edge of the World, Donker (London, England), 1974; A World of Their Own, Donker (London, England), 1976; A New Book of South African Verse in English, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979; Modern South African Stories, Donker (London, England), 1980; Theatre Two, Donker (London, England), 1981; Best British Short Stories, Heinemann (London, England), 1986; and Colour of a New Day, Lawrence & Wishart (New York, NY), 1990. Contributor to periodicals, including London Magazine, Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, New Yorker, Transatlantic Review, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, and New Statesman.
Born and raised in South Africa, Christopher Hope has made the wrenching racial politics of his native land the subject of his poetry, fiction, and dramas. He has lived in England since the time when, according to George Packer in Nation, he "felt his existence in South Africa anchored by so little substance and buoyed by so much ‘incorrigible lightness’ [as he wrote in White Boy Running] that in 1974, at age thirty, caught between the nationalisms of Afrikaners and blacks, he floated off to exile in London." From London, Hope has produced writings that have won favor with critics and the public for their searing (though often funny) portrayal of the politics of hate. Hope once told CA: "Most of my work, I think, has been an attempt to explore the effects of discrimination, particularly racial discrimination, as exemplified by apartheid in South Africa, the injustice of which and the misery it causes are widely known; less well understood, perhaps, is the richly bizarre existence of the various population groups who must live under enforced segregation in a society obsessed with skin color. A tiny minority operate a system of racial separation everyone knows to be crazy."
Hope first received recognition with the publication of Cape Drives, a book of poetry, in 1974. Of the poems on South Africa (including "At the Country Club," "African Tea Ceremony," and "In the Middle of Nowhere") in In the Country of the Black Pig and Other Poems, published in 1981, Douglas Dunn wrote in the Times Literary Supplement: "It is heartening … to read a poet who can balance conscience and compassion with literary good taste, distributing powerful ironies and pictures with discretion as well as concern." Of Englishmen: A Poem, published in 1985, Simon Rae wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that it "dips back into history to seek out the roots of the Afrikaner identity." Finding much to praise in its economy and its chilling characterizations, Rae asserted: "The poem marks a new and exciting departure for this extremely versatile writer." Hope designated Englishmen a "poem for voices"; its fourteen parts were read aloud in an English Radio 3 production in 1986. Hope is also the author of several plays and children's books but has probably achieved his greatest measure of fame for his works of prose for adults, including the novels A Separate Development, Kruger's Alp, and The Hottentot Room, as well as the memoir White Boy Running.
Hope's first novel, A Separate Development, was awarded the David Higham Memorial Prize for its story of a dark-skinned Caucasian boy, Harry Moto, who leaves his white neighborhood to live in a black township called Koelietown. There, passing as "colored," Harry encounters the world of apartheid from the op- posite side, hounded by police for interracial relations (with his old girlfriend). A Separate Development was banned in South Africa. Darryl Pinckney, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called it "a wildly funny novel" but was careful to point out its seriousness: "The jaunty manner of Harry's narration is in striking contrast to the bitter experiences he relates." Times Literary Supplement contributor Anthony Delius asserted that Hope "has taken to prose to give us an exuberant view of the painfully funny side of apartheid." Judith Chettle of Washington Post Book World also admired the novel's humor, "despite the gravity of its concerns." In her opinion, A Separate Development, with its realistic characters, is just as effective as books that are "relentlessly grim … that appear to edit their characters' speech and thinking so that they seem to resemble candidates for canonization rather than the actual participants in a real drama." Hope once commented to CA: "A Separate Development (the official euphemism for apartheid) is a kind of joke-book, because if apartheid is cruel it is also ridiculous, and the most cheering thing about its victims is their well-nourished sense of the ridiculous. It is something the guardians of racial purity find more disconcerting than earnest moralizing."
Kruger's Alp makes a departure from the more straight-forward storytelling of A Separate Development. Ron Loewinsohn, writing in the New York Times Book Review, described Kruger's Alp as "a novel in the form of a dream allegory, a very literary genre that we usually associate with Chaucer, Langland, and Bunyan—the exotic domain of the literary antiquarian." The Whitbread Prize-winning novel takes its shape from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, following a group of men who served as altar boys to a politically rebellious priest as they each come to terms with their South African heritage. Among them is Theodore Blanchaille, who has himself become a priest and who sets out from South Africa on a quest for the fabled Swiss mountain retreat built by the exiled Boer leader Paul Kruger. In the allegorical narrative, the author "is telling the story of present-day South Africa," David Guy wrote in a Washington Post review. "This is not a book to be taken up lightly. It is a difficult, complicated, often brilliant and sometimes hilariously funny novel." Los Angeles Times reviewer Richard Eder described Kruger's Alp as "a parable of considerable wit and uneven texture. At its best, it is a rich weave of telling absurdities. Sometimes, though, and particularly toward the end, the parabolic mechanics become obtrusive as the author maneuvers each one of his allegorical chickens back to its roost." Loewinsohn, however, excused what he saw as "minor flaws, given the importance of what [Hope] has to say to us—about South Africa in particular, but also about authoritarian power everywhere."
The tale of a London pub where ex-South Africans gather to drink and remember their homeland, The Hottentot Room exhibits "touches of brilliant writing here and there, and stretches of compelling madness and tragedy," but it is ultimately too heavy and predictable, according to Stephen Franklin in the Chicago Tribune Books. Joel Conarroe's opinion, expressed in Washington Post Book World, was that The Hottentot Room is many things, the "all of the above" answer to the questions, "Is this short, densely written work a novel? A collection of self-contained essays? A love letter to a lost homeland? A hate letter to London? A treatise on racism?" New York Times Book Review contributor Edward Hoagland described it as a "fevered, obsessive portrait of a refugee community of aging, baffled revolutionaries, defrocked academics and assorted, forlorn misfits who hang about a strange after-hours pub … mopping imaginary equatorial sweat off their brows and batting imaginary mosquitoes." Going on to note that "this is not a commercial book in any sense of the word," Conarroe asserted, "The pleasures of Christopher Hope's text, and they are legion, are those that come from following the unexpected twists and turns of an intelligent (and troubled) writer's mind as he confronts a number of serious subjects."
The Love Songs of Nathan J. Swirsky is a novel originally written as separate short stories, set during the 1950s in Badminton, a suburb of Johannesburg. Nathan owns a pharmacy, and when he adds a nativity scene to his window display, he is met with indignation, and a rock is thrown through his window. Men come to the town at night to remove soil that they sell to the English who, with limited success, try to replicate the gardens of their homeland. "The top soil of the book is light and comic," wrote Susan Jeffreys in New Statesman & Society, "but Hope never lets that cover the violence and racism of this artificial society…. The novel holds together because of the strength of its themes and the elegance of Hope's writing."
A bushman named David Mungo Booi is at the center of the satirical Darkest England. He embarks to England in the hopes that the present queen will honor an old promise from Queen Victoria to protect his people from the Boers. He finds England marked by fear and the misery of economic and political hardship. In her review for the Washington Post Book World, Frances Stead Sellers found this "breathtakingly entertaining narrative" to be both "deliberately derivative and ebulliently original." Michael Harris, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review noted the apparent contradiction in the character of Booi. While at times he is depicted as an innocent in a foreign land, he also possesses the arrogance of English explorers, which made them perceive their own culture as superior to the ones in which they were entrenched. Harris added: "Darkest England lacks something of Twain's savage glee, but it's full of barbs nonetheless. Hope isn't content with detailing the unwholesome diet and odd sexual practices of the English; he finds even their impulses to do good sinister." "One embarks on this tour of our green and unpleasant lands in the company of a supremely able writer and a practiced political satirist, anticipating that England will be turned inside out," wrote Kate Kellaway of Observer. She noted, however, that her fellow English readers may find it an uncomfortable read, but not for the reasons they expect. It is not the unflattering content but the delivery that disappointed Kellaway. She lamented the lack of dialogue "because it is in the human encounters that Englishness is most subtly and insidiously revealed." She also had difficulty determining Hope's tone, which "moves uneasily between contrived jests and seriousness," and she maintained that in the end, the character of Booi has not deepened.
White Boy Running is Hope's memoir, the story of his return to South Africa from a self-imposed exile of thirteen years on the eve of President P.W. Botha's 1987 call for elections on reforming the apartheid system. Carolyn Slaughter noted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review: "It is clear from this memoir that Hope felt himself an exile even before he left South Africa. He was a Catholic at school in the Protestant Afrikaner fortress of Pretoria; he saw the country as a place without reality and was unable to locate himself within it. He began to write because the quality of South African life had a fictional character." In the Village Voice, Melvyn A. Hill saw the book as mirroring its author's emotional state: "Hope's text exposes various layers of his origins, so that you experience something like his own confusion as the narrative meanders through personal and familial anecdotes, historical episodes and political commentary." J.M. Coetzee described White Boy Running in the New Republic: "Partly reportage and political analysis, partly autobiography, partly satire, it is in essence a diagnosis of the condition of white South Africa today." Stephen Watson, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, noted Hope's dilemma as "a member of the English-speaking minority within South Africa, incapable of identifying with either black or white nationalism, remaining committed to a liberalism long proven impotent in this context," one who "would inevitably end up a stranger in his own country…. There is no disguising his sense of loss. Quite as much as his sharp eye for the absurdities of South Africa, it is the constant pressure of this sense of bereavement that makes this book as good as any of his novels." In the opinion of Newsweek writer Jim Miller, White Boy Running "lays bare, as few books have before, the follies and fears of South Africa's ruling white minority." "At the end of a book as eloquent and wise as this," Slaughter concluded, "all one can suggest is, perhaps the time has come for the white boy to stop running."
In Me, the Moon, and Elvis Presley, the King's spirit is just one of the characters that also include black and white Afrikaans, a traveling salesman, Cuban refugees, and British Israelites. The story is set in a Karoo village that is called either Buckingham or Lutherburg, alternating with the change in rule. Events are observed by Mimi de Bruyn, a black African slave who rises to become deputy mayor of the town. Between the Lines Web site reviewer Jayne Margetts's favorite voice was that of Roy the budgie, a parakeet. Margetts remarked that the human characters "are at the mercy of their ignorance, fallibility, and vulnerabilities…. If rumbling belly-laughs, historical and human satire, and a twist of the offbeat are your forte then this book promises to blow away the cobwebs of your own internal apartheid."
Signs of the Heart: Love and Death in Languedoc is set in France. Adam Thorpe wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that the book "captures the vif quality of the southern French, the febrile darting glance under the conservative peasant rituals of mealtimes and market." The narrator of many of the stories is Siggy, an antiques and clock collector who provides a touch of comedy to the tales. Sophie provides the tragedy. "She fits in well in Languedoc, Hope realizes," wrote Thorpe, "with its mingling of the sacred and arcane, physical and immaterial, goose fat, and paradisal light—but her story is finally more Grimm than Andersen." Other characters include "the local doctor, who exposes himself to topless Dutch girls," Anna, who has only half her face, and the sexy Claire. "A brilliant touch, one of the details that lifts this book out of the ordinary," noted Thorpe, "is the repeated glimpses of the history of Siggy's donkey, its shaggy bulk touching the cardinal points of love and death." Thorpe felt that despite the book's "attractive picaresque, there is a sepulchral gloom … that rings true…. This is a heartfelt book."
Hope turns from writing about his home in the south of France to African topics with his 2002 autobiographical novel, Heaven Forbid, and the 2003 Brothers under the Skin: Travels in Tyranny, a collection of essays dealing with dictators and tyrants of the twentieth century. The former book is told through the eyes of a young boy in South Africa whose widowed mother chooses as a suitor a man the boy despises. In Brothers under the Skin Hope gives over half the essays to a study of the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. Writing on the London Independent Web site, Barbara Trapido felt Hope's is a "a timely and important book," and one which puts on full display "Mugabe's ugly tricks" and the brutality of his regime. Contemporary Review critic Tony Thomas also found positive qualities to the collection, but on whole thought that "Hope's ambition exceeds his reach." Specifically, Thomas noted, "in examining the aims, style and methods of the world's tyrants, past and present, and seeking to discern a common theme, he has taken on a task that demands a harder, more analytical mind than he possesses."
Hope stayed with South African topics for his 2006 novel, My Mother's Lovers, "a tale of South Africa both during and after the apartheid years, related by Alexander, a Johannesburg boy caught up in an overwhelming, baffling relationship with his impossible, larger-than-life mother Kathleen," Bookseller contributor Benedicte Page noted. Among Kathleen's accomplishments are flying, big-game hunting, and fisticuffs. Kathleen is a single mother and in love with the entire continent of Africa. During the years of apartheid she helps refugees from the African National Congress escape the country, more for the fun of it than out of any political convictions. Her numerous lovers baffle the young Alexander, as does his mother at times. Guardian Online Web site contributor Maya Jaggi observed, "The story of a Johannesburg pilot, Kathleen Healey, and her son Alexander, the novel is Hope's most savagely sardonic appraisal to date of the ‘new South Africa’." Hope's novel found further critical praise from many quarters. Booklist reviewer Carol Haggas declared: "Hope offers a lush homage to a politically turbulent and historically complex land." However, a Publishers Weekly reviewer had a more mixed assessment. While commenting that "Hope allows Kathleen to come through clearly, and individual episodes are suffused with Alexander's lifelong ambivalence," the critic also thought "the novel doesn't fully jell." A much more positive evaluation came from Library Journal contributor Sarah Conrad Weisman, who felt the author "offers vivid and powerful descriptions of modern-day South Africa." Likewise, a Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "intelligent, tough-minded and surprisingly tender: a portrait of Africa that both convinces and provokes."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 52, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Contemporary Novelists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Hope, Christopher, White Boy Running, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1988.
Atlantic Monthly, February, 1982, review of A Separate Development, p. 86; June, 1988, review of White Boy Running, p. 106.
Booklist, September 15, 1996, Nancy Pearl, review of Darkest England, p. 220; April 1, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of My Mother's Lovers, p. 27.
Books, September 1, 2007, Hephzibah Anderson, review of My Mother's Lovers, p. 8.
Bookseller, July 21, 2006, Benedicte Page, "A Helpless Laughter: Christopher Hope's New Tragicomedy Explores the White African's Yearning to Belong," p. 21.
Chicago Tribune Book World, December 29, 1985, review of Kruger's Alp, p. 30.
Contemporary Review, April, 2004, Tony Thomas, review of Brothers under the Skin: Travels in Tyranny, p. 241.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 8, 1990, review of Moscow! Moscow!
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2007, review of My Mother's Lovers.
Library Journal, April 15, 1985, Peter Bricklebank, review of Kruger's Alp, p. 86; May 1, 1987, Albert E. Wilhelm, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 83; September 1, 1996, Barbara Love, review of Darkest England, p. 210; March 1, 2007, Sarah Conrad Weisman, review of My Mother's Lovers, p. 74.
Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1985, Richard Eder, review of Kruger's Alp.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 20, 1981, review of A Separate Development; May 22, 1988, Carolyn Slaughter, review of White Boy Running, p. 2; September 23, 1996, Michael Harris, review of Darkest England, p. 6.
Nation, December 26, 1988, George Packer, review of White Boy Running, p. 724.
New Republic, June 13, 1988, J.M. Coetzee, review of White Boy Running, p. 37.
New Statesman & Society, September 17, 1993, Susan Jeffreys, review of The Love Songs of Nathan J. Swirsky, p. 41.
Newsweek, December 7, 1981, Walter Clemons, review of A Separate Development, p. 104; June 27, 1988, Jim Miller, review of White Boy Running, p. 61.
New Yorker, December 14, 1981, review of A Separate Development, p. 209.
New York Times Book Review, December 20, 1981, Darryl Pinckney, review of A Separate Development, p. 10; May 5, 1985, Ron Loewinsohn, review of Kruger's Alp, p. 9; July 19, 1987, Edward Hoagland, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 7; November 8, 1987, review of Black Swan, p. 26; September 29, 1996, Megan Harlan, review of Darkest England, p. 20.
Observer, October 6, 1985, review of Englishmen: A Poem, p. 26; September 7, 1986, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 26; May 24, 1987, review of Black Swan, p. 25; May 1, 1988, review of White Boy Running, p. 43; March 24, 1996, Kate Kellaway, review of Darkest England, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, February 4, 1983, Sally A. Lodge, review of A Separate Development, p. 367; July 29, 1983, review of The King, the Cat, and the Fiddle, p. 224; February 8, 1985, review of Kruger's Alp, p. 69; May 16, 1986, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Compleat Violinist, p. 229; May 8, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 62; September 4, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Black Swan, p. 54; March 25, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of White Boy Running, p. 58; August 12, 1996, review of Darkest England, p. 66; May 21, 2007, review of My Mother's Lovers, p. 31.
School Library Journal, January, 1984, review of The King, the Cat, and the Fiddle, p. 79.
Spectator, August 16, 2003, Anthony Daniels, "Blundering in the Realm of Comparison," p. 45.
Times Literary Supplement, January 8, 1982, Douglas Dunn, review of In the Country of the Black Pig and Other Poems, p. 38; November 5, 1982, Anthony Delius, review of A Separate Development, p. 1231; November 29, 1985, Simon Rae, review of Englishmen, p. 1359; September 19, 1986, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 1028; March 11, 1988, Stephen Watson, review of White Boy Running, p. 270; March 22, 1996, review of Darkest England, p. 25; September 17, 1999, Adam Thorpe, "Cathars Incarnate," p. 31; November 14, 2003, Emilie Bickerton, review of Brothers under the Skin, p. 31.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 7, 1987, Stephen Franklin, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 7; July 10, 1988, review of White Boy Running, p. 6.
Village Voice, August 30, 1988, Melvyn A. Hill, review of White Boy Running, p. 54.
Wall Street Journal, May 27-28, 1988, review of White Boy Running, p. 7.
Washington Post, June 11, 1985, David Guy, review of Kruger's Alp; June 6, 1988, review of White Boy Running.
Washington Post Book World, January 3, 1982, Judith Chettle, review of A Separate Development, p. 7; July 26, 1987, Joel Conarroe, review of The Hottentot Room, p. 8; September 15, 1996, Frances Stead Sellers, review of Darkest England, p. 5.
Between the Lines,http://www.thei.aust.com/ (November 14, 2000), Jayne Margetts, review of Me, the Moon, and Elvis Presley.
Contemporary Writers,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (November 28, 2007), "Christopher Hope."
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (October 21, 2006), Maya Jaggi, review of My Mother's Lovers.
Independent Online,http://arts.independent.co.uk/ (August 30, 2003), Barbara Trapido, review of Brothers under the Skin.