What is Time… That you speak of it so subserviently? Are we to be the slaves of the sun, that second-hand, overrated knob of gilt, or of his sister, that fatuous circle of silver paper? A curse upon their ridiculous dictatorship! Mervyn Peake


Each day I live in a glass room unless I break it with the thrusting of my senses and pass through the splintered walls to the great landscape.

Each day I live in a glass room unless I break it with the thrusting of my senses and pass through the splintered walls to the great landscape.

Vast alchemies : the life and work of Mervyn Peake  G. Peter Winnington  London : P. Owen ; Chester Springs, PA : Distributed in the USA by Dufour Editions, 2000  Hardcover. 1st ed. 263 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 245-250) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Interest in Mervyn Peake, author of Titus Groan and many other works of modern fantasy, has never been greater than it is now. With the BBC adaptation and showing of the acclaimed Gormenghast Trilogy in England, and its showing in the U.S. and with the re-issuing of his books, this new reassessment of the life and work of one of the last century’s most misunderstood writers may be welcomed.

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This biography is the result of twenty-five years’ research into Peake. It follows Peake, the son of missionary parents, from China to art school in London and to an artist’s colony in the Channel Islands. It covers in detail his time in the army during the Second World War, a stressful period which coincided with his writing of Titus Groan; the huge influence that his visit to the concentration camp at Belsen had on his work; and the next ten years of his life, which were without doubt his most productive.

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Winnington examines all of Peake’s work – the novels, poems, the illustrations, and the plays – and emphasizes his struggle with poverty, ill health, and his premature death. Vast Alchemies draws heavily on the writings and reminiscences of those who knew Peake, as well as Peake’s correspondence with his publishers, and includes many never-before published photographs.

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