The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Paperback – 16 Jul 2007
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‘I have read nothing to compare with it.’ Penelope Mortimer
‘Sillitoe writes with tremendous energy, and his stories simply tear along.’ Daily Telegraph
‘All the imaginative sympathy in the world can’t fake this kind of thing. It must have been lived in, seen, touched, smelled: and we are lucky to have a writer who has come out of it knowing the truth, and having the skill to turn that truth into art.’ New Statesman
‘Graphic, tough, outspoken, informal.’ The Times
‘A beautiful piece of work, confirming Sillitoe as a writer of unusual spirit and great promise.’ Guardian
‘A major writer.’ Malcolm Bradbury
About the Author
Alan Sillitoe left school at 14 to work in various factories until becoming an air traffic control assistant with the Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1945. He began writing after four years in the RAF, and lived for six years in France and Spain. In 1958, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ was published, and ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’, which won the Hawthornden Prize for literature, came out the following year. Both these books were made into films.
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Top Customer Reviews
This collection of short stories was published in 1959, a year after "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", Sillitoe's first novel. All the stories are set, or partly set, in the author's home town of Nottingham. The title story is both the best-known in the collection and the longest. It takes the form of a first-person monologue by Smith (we never learn his first name), a teenager from a working-class Nottingham home who is sent to Borstal after being convicted of robbing a bakery. (A "Borstal", named after the Kentish village in which the first such institution was situated, was at this period a special prison for young offenders).
While in Borstal, Smith discovers a talent for long-distance running, and this brings him to the notice of the Governor, who takes a keen interest in sport as a means of rehabilitating young offenders, and he is entered in a cross-country race against other Borstals. (The Governor believes that for one of his inmates to win the race would bring prestige to his institution). Smith has a real talent for the sport and could easily have won the race, but quite deliberately chooses to lose it, stopping running just short of the finishing line to allow another runner to pass him. He does so as a deliberate gesture of contempt for the Governor and for the whole of the Establishment which he despises.Read more ›
Nottingham-born Smith finds himself ensconced in an Essex borstal for, jointly with his pal Mike, stealing the cash takings from a local bakery. Sillitoe once again captures accurately and evocatively the zeitgeist of post-war rebellious youth, as Smith despises equally all forms of authority (police, army, school, etc), an apparently irredeemable spirit, whose only feelings of sympathy are felt towards his deceased father (who has recently died of cancer). Sillitoe includes brilliant descriptions of Smith's cat-and-mouse encounter in Smith's house doorway with a policeman who is seeking to establish the boy's guilt for the bakery robbery and then, once established as his borstal governor's main hope for victory in the prestigious cross-country race, Smith's duplicitous behaviour in throwing the race as a means to further antagonise his oppressors. For a story running to less than 60 pages, Sillitoe manages to convey with amazing precision, and a good degree of pathos, his protagonist's uncompromisingly nihilistic take on life.Read more ›
And so I found here, with Sillitoe. In some ways, to my taste, this collection would have been better served by having fewer of the ‘stories in the middle section’ The first, 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' is a marvellous novella, rather than short story. It is full of bitter, angry realism, a heady mix of despair, resignation and empowerment
The central character is a troubled, disadvantaged young Nottinghamshire teen, doing time in a Borstal, after he was caught with the proceeds of a robbery – in a scene which mixes dark humour with pathos. The story, told in the first person is imbued with a sharp, intelligent sense of the unfair nature of an unequal society.
Smith did not have the chances, due to poverty and deprivation for any kind of better life (the book was published in 1959) Petty crime offered glamour, excitement – and food on the table.
In his time in the Borstal, the superficially progressive prison governor discovers that Smith has a rare talent for running, and when a cross-country running competition is set up against a prestigious school, the prison governor sees glory for himself and his running of his Borstal, in pitting his prize boy against the elite.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sillitoe is such a good writer, and this collection of short stories shows him at his best. A classic of northern working class literature, it’s as relevant today as it was in the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amanda Jenkinson
Absolute classic of working class literature. Seems dated in parts but that just adds to its charm.Published 11 months ago by Paul Machin
A classic and brilliantly written. Novels such as this need to be read and more so these days since they appear to be no longer being written.Published 17 months ago by Bell Tower
AN AGE-OLD story told by the master.There's none better than SilletoePublished 22 months ago by Christopher E. Howard