Angus Wilson

British author (1913-1991)

Sir Angus Frank Johnstone Wilson CBE (11 August 191331 May 1991) was an English novelist, short-story writer, biographer and critic.


  • The opportunities for heroism are limited in this kind of world: the most people can do is sometimes not to be as weak as they’ve been at other times.
    • Malcolm Cowley (ed.) Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, First Series (New York: Viking Press, [1958] 1959) p. 261.
  • People are able to live with only half a heart, to live without real compassion, because they are able to use words that are only forms.
    • Interviewed in Iona Review no. 3 (Fall 1972).

The Wild Garden (1963)

The Wild Garden: or, Speaking of Writing. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963. London: Secker & Warburg, 1963. (Same pagination)
  • All writers know aspects of life that they take very much for granted, that yet to their readers appear peculiar, special.
    • p. 38
  • In writing novels I have never been able to place much importance upon the distinction between real and imagined. A novelist, it seems to me, makes as much or as little use of the real world as he needs to project his vision of life.
    • p. 136
  • [T]he impulse to write a novel comes from a momentary unified vision of life.
    • p. 149.

No Laughing Matter (1967)

No Laughing Matter. New York: The Viking Press, 1967
  • The roots of art and play lie very close together.
    • p. 51
  • Life isn't just to be found, you have to work for it.
    • p. 69
  • Between Margaret's fine-edged art and Gladys's rough simplicity, where did the greater feminine solace lie? True art, after all, is simple.
    • p. 77
  • Life can't be put on paper in all its complexity.
    • p. 77
  • But you mustn't be too sane, darlings. It really won't do in this family.
    • p. 119
  • I have no concern for the common man except that he should not be so common.
    • p. 464


  • April, April, laugh thy girlish laughter, and the moment after, Weep thy girlish tears, April.
    • Sometimes misattributed to Wilson because quoted in No Laughing Matter (Viking, 1967, p. 75). Actually from "Song (April, April)" in William Watson, The Hope of the World and Other Poems (London: John Lane, 1898), p. 41, which has "Then", not "and".
  • Youth is the time for loving, So poets often say.
    • Sometimes misattributed to Wilson because quoted in No Laughing Matter (Viking, 1967, p. 76). Actually from the song "Any Time's Kissing Time" in the show Chu Chin Chow (1916), words by Oscar Asche and music by Frederic Norton.


  • His fiction – radical, satirical, polyvalent, sexually courageous, global – extended the mainstream novel, and led it somewhere else. Still not fully recognized, he was one of Britain's greatest late-twentieth-century writers.
  • When was reviewing Doris Lessing's last two books from the Shikasta series, I found that she has discovered what I, to my great joy, had discovered a little earlier: that (a) if you're writing what they call science fiction, you're absolutely free-you can write anything you damn please, and (b) that if you take seriously the science fiction premise, you are furnished with an inexhaustable supply of absolutely beautiful and complex metaphors for our present situation, for who and where we are now, and I think it's not only women who have found this out. Angus Wilson was one of the first to do this with The Old Man in the Zoo years ago. That is a science fiction novel, if you look at it closely.
  • Angus Wilson says in Wild Garden that most of his books begin with a visual image; one of them began when he saw these two people arguing and he had to find out what they were arguing about, who they were. That fits in beautifully with the kind of visual image that started The Left Hand of Darkness.
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