Obituary: Paul Oswald

Paul Alexander Oswald, writer, born Dublin 28 January 1958, died London 15 July 1992.

PAUL OSWALD was well-known to readers of the Independent Magazine as the man who usually won the magnum of champagne in the weekly writing competition. He was the Comper's Comper.

He led the unofficial championship because he was the best. Not just highly intelligent (he was a member of Mensa), but a man of encyclopaedic knowledge who was deeply and genuinely interested in the world around him. He listened, observed, soaked it up, then drew on it as raw material for the little gems that were his trademark. Rambo in the style of Rimbaud, Trappist telephone messages, anthropomorphic political cartoon animals: all were grist to Oswald's mill. Unsurprisingly, his modern literary heroes were Martin Amis and Craig Raine, cerebral technicians both. But he loved Dickens and Donne too, for their reckless humanity. Paul Oswald was a perfectionist himself, but he knew the dangers of letting the best be enemy of the good.

His weekly writing competition entry was a form of literary light relief from the hurly-burly of churning out advertising copy. After graduating in English from the University of Kent, Oswald began his career with the advertising agency Wethey Scott Pocock, later moving to Bastable-Dailey, and then, following an unhappy year writing copy for the Sheraton Hotel group in the Middle East, to Senior King, where he worked from 1988 until his death. He also freelanced writing Sun-speak blurbs for video covers, something of a labour of love since he was a film-buff extraordinaire. He was also a talented amateur photographer, and his photographs were exhibited. But writing was what he lived for.

While he earned a good living as an ad-man, the trade in which he honed his craft, a puritanical streak within him constantly nagged him not to squander his talents on commercial ephemera. So, aching to write something worthy of comparison with the work he admired, he composed a number of elegantly written screenplays. Unfilmable, alas. Cinema is a collaborative art, and the downside of Oswald's fierce dedication was a stubborn unwillingness to compromise - or as he saw it, distort - his artistic vision. This vision was dearly bought. What he saw when he looked deeply into himself, we do not know. But it brought on a deep depression for which he was still receiving treatment when he died.

If all this suggests a solemn, serious man, that's not how most people remember him. He was a delightful person, thoughtful and generous - he drank very little of his Independent champagne himself - gregarious and as humorous in company as his competition entries might suggest. He enjoyed the good life. He travelled widely, particularly in the US, he ran half-marathons, swam in charity swimathons and played a mean game of tennis. He was a man who made the most of life.

'The Comper's Comper': Oswald and two of his competition entries

'You were invited to write a poem honouring a fruit or a vegetable:'

O pomegranate, pomegranate]

Made in heaven or near as dammit,

Most beauteous fruit upon the planet.

'Twould be gross infamy to can it.

What loon would ever dare to ban it?

O pomegranate, pomegranate]

My ardour's so strong none can fan it]

Ace love token for my bird Janet.

'You were invited to write a radio advertisement for the religion or cult of your choice:'

Twenty-second silence:

'To find out more about becoming a Trappist monk, please call our answerphone on 081-962 0016. Do not speak after the tone.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor