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Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) was a modernist writer and illustrator, best known for the Gormenghast trilogy of books. He also wrote a number of nonsense poems, a children's story "Letters from a lost Uncle", a radio play and "Mr Pye", a relatively tightly-structured novel in which God implicitly mocks the evangelical pretensions and cosy world-view of the eponymous hero. He was born in China in 1911 of British parents. Oriental influences can be detected here and there in his work, not least in Gormenghast, which in many respects resembles a Tibetan lamasery more than the Gothic castle it is meant to be.

Peake visited Belsen in the aftermath of World War II in the capacity of war artist; this visit had a profound effect upon him. The first of the Gormenghast trilogy, Titus Groan, was written in 1946. Gormenghast followed in 1950, and the final part, Titus Alone in 1959. Titus Alone was later revised by Langdon Jones to remove apparent inconsistencies.

In 1984, BBC Radio 4 broadcast two 90-minute plays based on Titus Groan and Gormenghast, adapted by Brian Sibley and starring Sting as Steerpike and Freddie Jones as the Artist (narrator). A slightly abridged compilation of the two, running to 160 minutes, and entitled Titus Groan of Gormenghast, was broadcast on Christmas Day, 1992. BBC 7 repeated the original versions on 21 and 28 September, 2003.

In 2000, the BBC and WBGH Boston produced a miniseries, titled Gormenghast, based on the first two books of the trilogy.