Oliver Onions

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Oliver Onions

George Oliver Onions (November 13, 1873 – April 9, 1961) was a British novelist and short story writer who married novelist Berta Ruck.

Oliver_Onions’s Biography

Personal life

Born George Oliver Onions, on November 13, 1873 in Bradford, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, he was from a humble family. He studied art for three years in London, at the National Arts Training Schools (now the Royal College of Art). In the book Twentieth Century Authors, Onions detailed his passion for motorsport and science; He was also an amateur boxer in his youth.

In 1909, he married the writer Berta Ruck (1878-1978) and they had two children, Arthur (1912) and William (1913). In 1918, he legally changed his name to George Oliver, but continued publishing under the name of Oliver Onions.

He died on April 9, 1961, in Aberystwyth, Wales.

Literary career

Originally trained as a commercial artist, working as a designer of posters and books, and as an illustrator of magazines during the War of the Boers. Encouraged by the American writer Gelett Burgess, Onions began writing fiction, the first editions of his novels were published with dust covers that carried full-color illustrations by the author himself.

Poor Man’s Tapestry (1946) and its prequel, Arras of Youth (1949), narrate the adventures of a juggler, Robert Gandelyn, in the 14th century, Onions later wrote two detective novels: A Case in Camera and In Accordance with the Evidence He also wrote science fiction novels: New Moon (1918), about a Utopian Britain, and The Tower of Oblivion (1921), starring a middle-aged man who returns to his youth. Man (1931), on a magic costume, and A Shilling to Spend (1965), about a self-perpetuating coin, are fantasy novels.

Onions also wrote several collections of ghost stories, of which the best known is Widdershins (1911), including the short novel The Beckoning Fair One, widely considered a work of importance in the genre of horror fiction. This is a story about a conventional haunted house: an uninspired writer moves to live in the rooms of an empty house, hoping that isolation will encourage his creativity. His sensitivity and imagination are reinforced by his isolation, but both his art and his only friend, and finally his sanity, end up succumbing to the process. The story can be read as the narrative of the protagonist’s gradual appropriation by a mysterious and possessive feminine spirit, or as a realistic description of a psychotic outbreak that culminates in catatonia and murder, told from the point of view of the psychotic subject. The precise description of the slow disintegration of the protagonist’s mind is terrifying anyway. The theme of the connection between creativity and madness appears in other works of Onions, who comes to suggest that the artist runs certain dangers by withdrawing from the world and losing himself in his creation.Another remarkable story of Widdershins is “Rooum “, about an engineer pursued by a mysterious entity.” Phantas “,” The Rosewood Door “and” The Rope in the Rafters “tell time travel.

The short novel that gives title to The Painted Face (1929) is about a Greek girl who is the reincarnation of an ancient spirit; Mike Ashley describes it as “one of the best works of its kind.” This book also contains the story “The Master of the House,” a story about a werewolf and black magic.

The Hand of Kornelius Voyt is a long supernatural novel about an isolated child falling under the psychic influence of another child.

Onions was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Poor Man’s Tapestry, 1946.

Critical appraisal and influence

The works of this author have been generally well received by critics. Gahan Wilson called him “one of the best, if not the best, of the ghost story writers who work in the English language,” adding that “Mr. Onions did more than anyone to move the ghosts and other beings from his dark lairs and gothic dungeons to the same room in which one currently sits. ” Writing about ghost stories, Algernon Blackwood judges The Beckoning Fair One” the most horrible and beautiful work ever written of its kind ” JB Priestley described Widdershins as a “book of excellent spooky stories.” Robert Aickman described The Beckoning Fair One as “possibly one of the six great masterpieces in this field.” EF Bleiler praised Widdershins as “book of reference in the history of supernatural fiction. ” Clemence Dane stated about Onions:” His books have a lasting appeal to that reader who enjoys using his brain and his imagination. ” n »A review of the Irish Times on Arras of Youth stated:« Mr. Onions writes in a clean and often beautiful prose. »Martin Seymour-Smith described the Whom God Hath Sundered trilogy as a forgotten classic:« In Accordance with the Evidence is the masterpiece of the trilogy, but the other two works in no way dishonor it. ” Neil Wilson has claimed that the supernatural works of Onions” are remarkable for the depth of their psychological penetration, for their elegant writing and its sophisticated plots ». Wilson notes that “The Beckoning Fair One (1911) is considered by many to be one of the great tales of the supernatural in English, but it has overshadowed other works of Onions in the genre that some consider equal, if not superior, importance. In fact, most of this author’s supernatural fiction meets very high standards and stands out for its originality, subtlety and its refined characterizations that raise it well above the average ».

The evaluation of H. P. Lovecraft, however, was not positive; In a letter of 1936 to J. Vernon Shea, Lovecraft declared: “I have the Ghosts in Daylight of Onions … And the truth, none of the stories has hooked me”.

Karl Edward Wagner’s short story “In the Pines” (1973) is a tribute to The Beckoning Fair One by Onions. Russell Hoban alludes to Onions’ works in his books Her Name Was Lola and Amaryllis Night and Day.

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