Obituary: Kitty Mrosovsky

Kitty Mrosovsky was a writer of great intelligence and sensibility who never received the critical attention that she deserved.

Partly because of her premature death, there is relatively little of her work in the public sphere - two books, some poetry and various reviews. However she has also left behind a bulk of unpublished manuscripts - including a second novel as well as more poetry, short stories and critical essays - which, one hopes, will allow a wider audience to appreciate her gifts.

Born in Oxford from a family of Russian European extraction, Mrosovsky spent most of her childhood in the Mediterranean and was educated mainly in French. In her teens she came back to England and went on to read English at Somerville College, Oxford. She took a First Class honours degree and a BPhil in comparative literature, and looked set to embark on a distinguished academic career. But after only a year she abandoned her post as a lecturer at York University and decided to devote herself to writing.

This was a brave choice, to which she adhered, but it didn't make things easy. From then on she never again took up full-time employment. She taught English part-time at the Open University and translated and produced a highly acclaimed edition of Flaubert's The Temptation of Saint Antony, published in 1980 and later reissued as a Penguin Classic. She did book reviewing and worked as a theatre critic for Quarto - but these were hardly lucrative assignments and she was not cut out for the hustling and the quick-turn-around bodge job necessary to make freelance journalism profitable.

Mrosovsky's personal life, where she proved an enormously warm and generous friend, was marked by the same intellectual honesty and moral scrupulousness - not prudishness, but rather a reluctance to cut the deals and compromises that most of us, with a more approximate personal morality, make with the world.

In 1985 Mrosovsky's novel Hydra was published. It is a difficult, ambitious, painful book which uses as its starting-point a tutorial session on Euripides' play Herakles between a diffident lecturer and his student who is paralysed from the neck down. This is not a subject likely to have enormous commercial appeal. But her few reviews were complimentary and marked her out as an unusual talent.

After Hydra Mrosovsky travelled to Italy, where she wrote a second novel. But she was unable to find a publisher. This proved a severe blow and, although she had little worldly ambition, she found the lack of literary recognition harder to bear.

When she returned in the late Eighties, Mrosovsky discovered that she was HIV positive - having contracted the virus before it was even identified or its symptoms described. Although she continued to write, and completed an introduction to a book of etchings by Tim Rollins, the knowledge of her illness was a turning-point and she began to devote her energies to investigating developments in Aids research and becoming involved in environmental issues and the question of animal welfare.

By the late Eighties Mrosovsky's illness began to take its toll. She seems to have struggled with the infection and its debilitating side-effects on her own, telling very few people. Many of her friends, not suspecting that a woman in her forties who was not a drug-taker could possibly be HIV positive, failed to realise that she was dying.

Mrosovsky did not keep her illness private out of any false sense of shame - among her papers is a careful essay in which she points out, ``Aids is not a special and unmentionable disease limited to sub-categories of society''; instead, it seems that she wanted to preserve her privacy and independence and didn't wish to weigh down her friends with a sense of obligation, nor to become an object of their pity. She continued instead with the activities that had enriched her life until then: going to concerts and galleries, reading, and playing wonderful Mozart sonatas on the grand piano which took up most of her living room.

It was typical of Kitty Mrosovsky, meticulous to the last, that she even left instructions about the welfare of the black and white neighbourhood cat that she had adopted. She was a fervent cat lover. Like T.S. Eliot, she couldn't take a walk in the park without zigzagging from one cat to the next.

Amanda Mitchison

Catherine Mrosovsky, writer: born Oxford 10 August 1946; died London 16 March 1995.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before