East and West with DM Thomas
East and West with DM Thomas

East and West with DM Thomas

by Dominic New man, Textbook.

Donald Michael Thomas (born 1935) made a name for himself as a writer when, in the early 1980s, his book ‘The White Hotel’ became a surprise success in the United States. With his mental journey into consciousness, Freud and the Holocaust, and the dizzying fall and meltdown of his narrator’s confidence, the sensation he caused spread across the Atlantic to England.

However, Thomas had been writing regularly for many years, as his archives, now fully documented and available in the Reading Rooms, records. At the beginning of his career, he thought of himself as a poet: between the 1960s and the 1980s, he filled thirty-five notebooks (kept in illustrated form) with sketches and drafts of verse. A home graph (include MS 89363/9/6) lists the appearance of his earlier poems in magazines and newspapers.

The image is from an illustration of an early edition of Thomas' poems in red and black ink, circa 1960.

Table showing editions of Thomas’ early poems, c. 1960 (add MS 89363/9/6). ‘Amazing childhood!’ it is its background.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Thomas began writing novels. His first, ‘Birthstone’, set in his native Cornwall and already exploring his interest in the ideas of Sigmund Freud, is preserved as a copy of the first edition (Add MS 89363/1/4) and with editing and modification by the author. Annotated texts and manuscripts and proofs document the work of other titles that followed the immediate series, including ‘Russian Nights’, a series of novels, initially planned as a trilogy, expanded initially to four -horns, then quintet.

Russia is a recurring theme in Thomas’ work. He translated poems by Pushkin and Anna Akhmatova, and made radio adaptations of Russian literature. In the late 1990s he began a biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ‘A Century of His Life’, which won the Orwell Book Award in 1999. The archive contains a large amount of drafts and research materials for this book, as well as photographs. and transcripts of interviews.

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An unusual series of articles (include MS 89363/8) chronicles one of the great disappointments of Thomas’s career: the apparent impossibility of making the film ‘The White Hotel’, despite at least three different attempts. made by various manufacturers over the years. The idea for the film came almost immediately after the immediate success of the novel, and at various times it seemed certain that it would be made. But every time the project is faced with problems, including legal ones (Thomas even found himself unknowingly dragged into a case in an American court). He tells the whole story in his memoir ‘Bleak Hotel’ (2008)., whose text is also in the file (add MS 89363/3/4-5).

Image shows a commentary by DM Thomas on Dennis Potter's script for the film adaptation of 'The White Hotel'

Thomas Comment on Dennis Potter’s Script for Proposed Film Adaptation of ‘The White Hotel’ (Add MS 89363/8/19)

Thomas preserved most of his letters to famous editors and writers (Charles Causley, Stevie Smith, Peter Redgrove and others), along with hundreds of messages to his sister Lois (Add MS 89363/9/18-24). There are also dozens of family photographs (Add MS 89363/9/8-11), beginning with his parents’ courtship in Cornwall in the 1920s and continuing through his childhood and adulthood. The lively scenes at home in Truro, where he returned to live in the late 1980s, were preserved for posterity. Most of the photos are inscribed by Thomas himself: ‘Rugby with Daddy’ – “I’m always away on beach/beach visits” – “singing face”. Family and friends are also affectionate characters. There is even a calendar entitled ‘Song of Thomas’, each month with a different image of the family singing, drinking and generally having fun. Thomas still found time to write, however: the latest notes and sketches on file (Add MS 89363/2/9-23) are dated 2017.

The DM Thomas file is under the shelf label Add MS 89363.

Source : dial.news