Patricia Highsmith enjoyed causing scandal or offense, according to her biographer

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New York, Jan 18 (EFE) .- Patricia Highsmith, author of black novel classics such as “Strangers on a train” and “The talent of Mr. Ripley”, would have turned one hundred years old this Tuesday but, far from falling into the Oblivion, continues to arouse such fascination that a new biography explores his “demons, lusts and strange desires.”

The Bloomsbury publishing house publishes tomorrow, coinciding with its anniversary, a biography that draws from his personal diaries, interviews and previous profiles called “Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires. The Life of Patricia Highsmith”, signed by Richard Bradford, research professor of the language English at the University of Ulster.

“I was fascinated by his novels, which I found absorbing and macabre, and therefore by the figure who produced them. The most attractive aspect of Highsmith is his reputation as an enigma, a question mark,” this academic, who compares, in in a way, the writer with her main characters.

“His novels are not standard crime fiction, usually involving a puzzle about who has committed the crime or clearly delineating the boundaries between good and evil. He likes to shock the reader and sometimes leave him feeling uncomfortable about why he is reading his book, not to mention enjoying it, “Bradford explained.

“Highsmith, as a person, seemed to enjoy causing scandal or offense, particularly in his later years,” he said.


Precisely her first novel, “Strangers on a Train” (1950), later turned into one of the jewels of the big screen thanks to the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, allows to peek into the personality of the writer through its protagonist, Bruno.

“I could offer an analogy. When Bruno enters Guy’s relatively comfortable world in ‘Strangers on a Train’ you know that nothing will ever be the same for Guy. In the novel he almost becomes addicted to Bruno’s diabolical presence, although this Hitchcock reduces it in the film, “said the expert.

“Reading a Highsmith novel is like meeting Bruno, and for many people who knew the real Highsmith, the effect was comparable,” he added.

Highsmith was born in 1921 in Fort Worth (Texas) but grew up in New York, where she moved as a child and became a writer, straddling Barnard College; the Yaddo artistic community of writers, to which Truman Capote invited him; and the bohemian neighborhood of Greenwich Village.

About her childhood you have to “trust” what Highsmith recounted in her written diaries as an adult, but “clearly she did not get along with her mother or stepfather”, “she spent a lot of time with her maternal grandmother in Fort Worth” and ” although the home was not exactly poor, it can be considered low class. ”

That is why, Bradford points out, there are “parallels” between her and another work: “When Highsmith went to Barnard College in New York, most of his peers were of higher class and we should note that the predominant theme of ‘The talented Mr. Ripley ‘(1955) is his desire to be someone else, to belong to the social elite of Dickie Greenleaf and the rest “.

“Highsmith, like Ripley, used murder to improve her social position, only she wrote about it,” he added.


The writer, who lived in a house in Greenwich Village today integrated into a route about LGBTQ figures, continues to fascinate by the depth of her character: lesbian but homophobic and misogynistic, as well as racist and anti-Semitic beyond the historical context in which she lived. .

One of the things that struck Bradford the most when reading the Highsmith diaries was his comments about Ellen Blumenthal Hill, who was his partner and one of the most influential women in his life: “They revolved between the rapt expressions of love and the feelings of mistrust, even hate. ”

“It all ends with her leaving Ellen alone the night she tries to commit suicide to go to dinner with friends and sleep with one of them. Four weeks later, after Ellen’s recovery, Highsmith writes a bizarre conversation with herself in her diary, pretending that she has discovered that Ellen is Jewish – when she knew the truth since they met – and expressing horror at the news, “he said.

According to his biographer, Highsmith made anti-Semitic and racist comments – always speaking, never in writing – at a time when America was moving toward accepting diversity, probably because “he enjoyed shocking people, even making them hate him.”

Among the unknowns that Highsmith left when she died in 1995 in Switzerland, and that her thousands of pages of personal writings do not answer, is what the writer would be like at 100 years old. “I suspect that the more normalized the diversity among decent people, their addiction to causing offense would have grown. It was partly nihilistic and masochistic,” he concluded.

(c) EFE Agency

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