Michael Arlen (1895-1956) was a literary shooting star among the smart set of the 1920s. The self-styled chronicler of Mayfair society, he became an international celebrity after the publication of his scandalous novel The Green Hat in 1924. Born into an immigrant Armenian community in Lancashire, following early breakthrough in London he led a millionaire’s life on the Riviera and dabbled in the Hollywood film industry before living out his final years, all but forgotten, in retirement in New York. For all his success as a purveyor of popular fiction, he remained forever an ‘outsider’, arousing both fascination and suspicion in the English-speaking world.
Encounters with Michael Arlen is a set of overlapping essays that reflect how the novelist was seen by himself and by his contemporaries. Unlike a conventional biography, the emphasis is on his connections with other leading figures of the day, especially fellow writers such as D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway and Rebecca West.
The book is also a rumination by the author on the sheer difficulty of writing literary biography. With its comprehensive timeline and listing of archive materials relating to Arlen, it should serve as a stimulus to future research on this neglected and enigmatic personality.
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