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 However she has also left behind a bulk of unpublished manuscripts - including a second novel as well as more poetry, short stories and critical essays - which, one hopes, will allow a wider audience to appreciate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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower