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History
GREAT LIVES
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SERIES 3
Friday 18 April 2003, 23:02 - 23:30



PROGRAMME 3: John Sergeant on Arthur Ransome

Picture of the novellist, Arthur Ransome.Arthur Ransome is one of the best-loved of all children's writers, and his books known all over the world.

Born on January 18, 1884, his father was a Professor of History at Leeds. His father was a lover of the countryside and every summer, he took his family to the Lake District.

Ransome took his first job with a London publisher and then with the Manchester Guardian working as a foreign correspondent.

Fascinated by languages, he went to Russia and reported on the Revolution in 1917. He grew to love Russia and its folklore, rewriting many of the ancient fairytales in English. While there he met and married his second wife Evgenia, who was Trotksy's secretary. (Ransome's first marriage was a disaster.)

Later Ransome went to China to report on the volatile political situation there. Many of the incidents in the stories are drawn from Ransome's own childhood. The unnamed lake of Arthur Ransome's books is an amalgamation of Coniston and Windermere, Coniston Old Man become 'Kanchenjunga'. Always fired by ambition to be a writer it was to be a long time before the memories came to life.

Why are Arthur Ransome's books so enduringly popular? They have been published all over the world and are nowhere more popular than in Japan.

His appeal lies in his understanding of the fantasies of the child's mind. Serpents, monsters and other fantasies have their place, but there is also a great longing to play at 'explorers', to follow in the footsteps of the great mountaineers and the navigators who discovered this world.

Not everyone saw it the same way. 'Titty' later said that as children she and her family grew tired of being linked with the books because 'we didn't do all those things'.

Joining him in the studio is Ransome's biographer, Hugh Brogan, and the daughter of one of the original Swallows, Barbara Altounyan.

Picture of the journalist, John Sergeant.The programme is chaired by Humphrey Carpenter.

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