Thursday, April 26, 2012

Morley Troman

Morley Troman (b. Wednesbury, England, 26 February 1918; d. Ploumillian, France, 29 October 2000)

Throughout his life Morley Troman was primarily interested in sculpture and writing. Born Frederick Morley Troman in Staffordshire, he was the son of William H. B. Troman and his wife Beatrice (née Denning), who were married in 1912. After studying drawing and sculpture at the Wolverhampton College of Art, he served in W.W. II and was a prisoner in Germany from 1942-44, after which time he worked in England and Germany as a volunteer aiding concentration camp victims. In 1946 he settled in Paris, and in 1956 bought a farm in Brittany, where he remained for the rest of his life.  In 1946 he married a painter, Shulamith Przepiorka; they had one son and one daughter.

Troman published only two novels, both of which reuse material from Breton legends.  The Hill of Sleep (London: Chatto & Windus, 1960) is narrated by a man returning to an island off the coast of Brittany where fifteen years earlier (in 1944) he had been hunted by German soldiers.  Gradually he pieces together the repercussions of his previous presence on the island. The review by Anne Duchene in The Guardian declares: “The construction is intricate, but handled with authority, the local climate is powerfully summoned up, and the undertow of the uncanny, below the rational event, is impressively embodied in the huge old recluse who sheltered the hero in an cottage on a gorse-bound cliff and who becomes a kind of Celtic king-magician. This is a very solid, imaginative essay, in the full sense of the term” (8 July 1960, p. 4).

The Devil’s Dowry (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961) has a long descriptive subtitle which reads “Being the improbable history of Bilz of Penn Menn and Yseult the Red, with some account of necromancy and wantonness in the country of Ar-Goät, set down from hearsay.” Here young Bilz, the son of a beggar-woman, decides it is his vocation to become a thief.  He learns mimicry and courts Iseult, the daughter of the Lord of Keruez, and must compete with the Devil to save her. Troman’s style in both books is subtle and modern, but it is also at times plodding. 

In addition to sculpting and writing, Troman also did some radio and television work, particularly on Breton subjects, including a series on the restoration of Troman’s seventeenth century farmhouse in Ploumillian. Troman worked at a third novel, The Standing Stone, but it was never published.

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