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Tuohy, Frank

TUOHY, Frank

Nationality: British. Born: John Francis Tuohy in Uckfield, Sussex, 2 May 1925. Education: Stowe School, Buckinghamshire; King's College, Cambridge, 1943-46, B.A. (honours) 1946. Career: Lecturer, Turku University, Finland, 1947-48; professor of English language and literature, University of São Paulo, Brazil, 1950-56; contract professor, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, 1958-60; visiting professor, Waseda University, Tokyo, 1964-67; visiting professor and writer-in-residence, Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, 1970-71, 1976, 1980; visiting professor, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, 1983-89. Awards: Katherine Mansfield-Menton prize, 1959; Society of Authors Travelling fellowship, 1963; James Tait Black Memorial prize, 1965; Faber Memorial prize, 1965; E.M. Forster award (U.S.A.), 1972; Heinemann award, 1979, for Live Bait ; Bennett award (Hudson Review ), 1994. D. Litt.: Purdue University 1987. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature, 1965. Agent: Peters Fraser and Dunlop, 503-504 The Chambers, Chelsea Harbour, Lots Road, London SW10 0XF. Address: Shatwell Cottage, Yarlington, near Wincanton, Somerset BA9 8DL, England.

Publications

Novels

The Animal Game. London, Macmillan, and New York, Scribner, 1957.

The Warm Nights of January. London, Macmillan, 1960.

The Ice Saints. London, Macmillan, and New York, Scribner, 1964.

Short Stories

The Admiral and the Nuns with Other Stories. London, Macmillan, 1962; New York, Scribner, 1963.

Fingers in the Door. London, Macmillan, and New York, Scribner, 1970.

Live Bait and Other Stories. London, Macmillan, 1978; New York, Holt Rinehart, 1979.

The Collected Stories. London, Macmillan, and New York, HoltRinehart, 1984.

Play

Television Play:

The Japanese Student, 1973.

Other

Portugal. London, Thames and Hudson, and New York, VikingPress, 1970.

Yeats (biography). London, Macmillan, and New York, Macmillan, 1976; as Yeats: An Illustrated Biography, London, Herbert Press, 1991.

*

Critical Studies:

"Foreign Bodies: The Fiction of Frank Tuohy" by John Millors, in London Magazine, n.s.18, February 1979.

Frank Tuohy comments:

Most of what I write seems to start off with the interaction between two cultures, modes of behaviour, ways of living, etc. Sometimes this confrontation is between a foreigner and an alien environment, sometimes between groups in that environment itself. For me, the sense of displacement, loss, anxiety which happens to people derives from the world outside them, in their relationships with that world. If I thought of it as starting inside, as being a part of the Self, I probably would not write at all.

* * *

The novels and short stories of Frank Tuohy are marked by a strong sense of social reality. They are set in various placesEngland, Brazil, Polandand give one a vivid sense of the physical place: the climate, landscape, local customs. Against the backdrop of special place, the drama of the characters' lives unfolds. In the short stories interest focuses usually on intense personal encounters in which the protagonist is made to face some unpleasant decision or harsh truth about himself or people close to him. These stories, sharply etched and intensely though quietly dramatic, have no apparent underlying theme. It is the revelation itself, the exquisitely rendered but "painful bite down on the rotten tooth of fact," to borrow a phrase from Tuohy, that one is meant to savor.

In his novels and longer stories there are the same sharp awareness of external reality and savoring of unpleasant fact, but there is also clearly a discernible moral structure. The writer's sympathies are with those who suffer and respond, who are capable of loyalty and self-abnegation. His dislike is for characters who, protected by money, indulge their appetites at the expense of those socially or culturally inferior or morally more sensitive.

The protagonist of Tuohy's first novel, The Animal Game, is Robin Morris, a young Englishman working in São Paulo, who encounters the beautiful corrupt daughter of a Brazilian aristocrat. Morris is attracted to this woman but is saved at the end of the novel from a relationship which, one sees, would have been sterile, self-indulgent, and ultimately destructive. Tuohy's moral sense is even more fully involved in his second novel about Brazil, The Warm Nights of January, which also deals with self-indulgence and sexual corruption. The Ice Saints takes place in Poland, some time after the Stalinist "thaw." Here the protagonist, an attractive, pleasant, but inexperienced and pampered young English woman visits her married sister and Polish brother-in-law with the idea of rescuing their son from what she regards as a grim and depressing existence, and taking him back to England to live. Although we are at first allowed to identify with the young woman's point of view (the horrors of Polish life are vividly presented), we are made to see, finally, the moral superiority of the Polish brother-in-law whose human qualities outweigh his lack of polish and urbanity.

Tuohy's stories and novels are written in a style that is compressed and economical yet remarkably evocative. One has the immediate sense of a physical world vividly and objectively presented and yet one also feels, but unobtrusively, the authorial presence choosing and arranging for judgmental effect.

W.J. Stuckey

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