A REVELATORY LOOK AT THE INTIMATE LIFE OF THE GREAT AUTHOR AND HOW IT SHAPED HIS MOST BELOVED WORKS
E.M. Forster was one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. We know his writing — A Room with a View, Howards End, A Passage to India. But until now, we have not known his story.
Almost all his life homosexuality was illegal. Forster was sixteen when Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for "gross indecency"; he died — at 91 — the year after the Stonewall riots. In his private life, with his lovers and friends, and within remarkably-developed gay communities, he embraced his sexuality; it came to define his writing, his friendships, in fact every part of his life.
By the time he was thirty before the First World War, Forster was a great and famous novelist, celebrated for his dark vein of social comedy and his sinewy wit. His early novels poked fun at British self-satisfaction. But after A Passage to India was published in 1924, a curious silence. One of the most prominent novelists of his time appeared to simply cease writing fiction at the relatively young age of forty-five.
For the next fifty years Forster honed a public voice, entering political fights from the position of the underdog. He protested against fascism, against censorship, against communism, against “Jew Consciousness,” against the British occupation of Egypt and India, against racism and jingoism and anything that smelled of John Bull. Forster raised his public voice, tremulously, often alone, against the edifice of conformity. But in private he preserved a vast archive of his experience as a sexual outsider in his own country. And he kept writing “unpublishable" stories, essays, and letters--a testament to his "great unrecorded history."
In this long strange, very modern life, we encounter an astonishing range of characters, from D. H. Lawrence to "Lawrence of Arabia," from Virginia Woolf to the Wolfenden Report authors, from Lytton Strachey to Liberace. Forster befriended both the Victorian sage Edward Carpenter and the modern sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey. It has taken a decade to research and write this book. Using unpublished archival material, photos, and interviews with surviving friends, my biography is the first work to integrate Forster's public and private lives and show just how his sexuality shaped his life, his work, and his politics. This life is a biography of the heart.