Kingsley Amis is one of post-war Britain’s most renowned novelists and one of the most famous people to have worked at Swansea University. He did so between 1949-61. In 1954 he published his first novel, which became a hit. It was called Lucky Jim and it was a comic satire on higher education, set in a provincial university. There are obvious parallels with Swansea, although Amis always said that he based the story more on Leicester where his friend Phillip Larkin had been working at the time. It is hard to imagine that working in Swansea did not impact the way Amis crafted Lucky Jim. Many of his subsequent novels, including That Uncertain Feeling were based on south Wales, as was The Old Devils, for which Amis won the Booker Prize in 1986.

Sir Kingsley Amis, 1969. © National Portrait Gallery 

Black and white portrait of Sir Kingsley Amis, 1969.
An interview with Kingsley Amis in Crefft, the student newspaper, 1954

When interviewed for the BBC’s Desert Island Discs programme in 1986, Amis repeated something he had often written, which was that the best work of his life had been conducted whilst at Swansea. Despite the reputation he had in some quarters, there is plenty of evidence to show that Amis was an engaged and likeable lecturer who connected with his students and gave his time generously. Classes were often held in the pub, students were invited to parties at his house, but he also gave a lot of time to activities such as judging student short story competitions.

Interview with Kingsley Amis, Crefft student newspaper, 1954 © Swansea University Students Union.

The material is courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.