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18.8.10

Frank Kermode, 1919-2010

Frank Kermode. Photograph: Fabio De Paola.
Acclaimed academic scholar and literary critic Frank Kermode has passed away, aged 90. He is perhaps best known for his association with The London Review of Books, contributing more than 200 essays and reviews since the publication was founded:
Widely acclaimed as Britain's foremost literary critic, Sir Frank Kermode, died yesterday in Cambridge at the age of 90.

The London Review of Books, for which the critic and scholar wrote more than 200 pieces, announced his death this morning. Kermode inspired the founding of the magazine in 1979, after writing an article in the Observer calling for a new literary magazine.

Prominent in literary criticism since the 1950s, Kermode held "virtually every endowed chair worth having in the British Isles", according to his former colleague John Sutherland, from King Edward VII professor of English literature at Cambridge to Lord Northcliffe professor of modern English literature at University College London and professor of poetry at Harvard, along with honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He was knighted in 1991.

A renowned Shakespearean, publishing Shakespeare's Language in 2001, Kermode's books range from works on Spenser and Donne and the memoir Not Entitled to last year's Concerning EM Forster.
Writers have, in the past, voiced their admiration for Kermode's distinctive brand of criticism:
He was also an acclaimed reviewer. John Updike said that Kermode's conclusions seem "inarguable – indeed just what we would have argued, had we troubled to know all that, or goaded ourselves to read this closely", while Philip Roth admitted that although he dislikes reading reviews, "if Frank Kermode reviewed my book I would read it".

The American writer will no doubt have been pleased by a 2008 review of his novel Indignation in the LRB, in which Kermode wrote that "he is a writer of quite extraordinary skill and courage; and he takes on bigger enemies in every book he writes".

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