Luca Fumagalli

The case of Bruce Marshall is unique. While his novels have been published in various languages ​​and are still read today by a small but devoted group of readers, very little has been written about his life or work.

Born in Edinburgh in 1899, Marshall became a Catholic in 1917, spiritually marked by the horror of the Great War (the following year, six days before the armistice, he suffered a bad wound with the unfortunate consequence of having his leg amputated). In 1929 he finished his studies and became, to quote his own words, an “accountant”. After a daring interlude at the time of the Second World War as an assistant to the French resistance on behalf of the British secret services, thanks to the success of a couple of his novels he was finally able to devote himself full time to writing. He then moved permanently to France, to the French Riviera, and died there in 1987.

Marshall’s works, the most famous of which are Father Malachy’s Miracle (1931) and The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith (1944), all ironic and insightful, show how in the end, by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ, good is always destined to triumph.

For Marshall, literature is therefore an encounter with man without fear, ready to accept his miseries and greatness, with the result that his stories are never a lesson or a sermon but rather an attempt to describe with common sense the simple taste of ‘existence. That’s why, to aspiring novelists, he gave a curious piece of advice: «Stay away! But if you really have to write, first learn Latin, dive into the depths of the abyss or practice piracy and you will be able to write and you will have something to write ». In other words: first life, then books.