Man-Booker Prize winner Alan Hollinghurst’s book The Sparsholt Affair is an insight into the private and public lives of gay men.
Written in five parts, it begins in 1940s Oxford and ends up in London in 2013, capturing the experiences of two generations of men – David Sparsholt – a
“glamorous, determined, high achieving person” - and his son, Johnny.
At the centre of the novel there is a focus on a 1966 scandal, the titular Sparsholt affair, which takes place just a year before the legalisation of homosexuality; Hollinghurst explained his intention to “have the scandal’s presence in the background” throughout the book, although the event itself is not depicted in great
This structure naturally lends itself well to the chronicling of major social changes, one of these being what Hollinghurst described as “a huge change in the concept of privacy” during the digital age, an increased visibility and acceptance of gay culture.
The novel captures the illicit nature of early relationships – the writer regarded it as “more fascinating to write about something that is half concealed” – as well as shedding light on what it is like to be gay in the modern world.
It is important not to become complacent, Hollinghurst argued, as he emphasised the importance of “keeping alive gay history” for the benefit of future generations.
On the future of gay fiction, Hollinghurst was of the opinion that it has “had its day”, partly as a result of the fluidity of identity amongst the millennial generation. He remarked that: “We live increasingly in a culture where sexuality is not strongly defined”, with fiction perhaps starting to reflect this.
If you missed this, you might enjoy Event 443, Andre Aciman and Colm Toibin Homo Sapiens, at 5.30pm tomorrow, 3 June.
Please visit Hay Player for the world’s great writers on audio and film; https://www.hayfestival.com/hayplayer/default.aspx?