March 1

This Day in History

Literary

Mar 1, 1921:

E.M. Forster takes a passage to India

Forty-one-year-old British writer E.M. Forster embarks on his second trip to India after an absence of eight years. Forster would turn his observations of the country into his fifth and most critically acclaimed novel, A Passage to India, published in 1924. The novel explored racism and colonialism through the story of an English tourist who accuses a respected Indian doctor of attacking her.

Forster was born in London in 1879, the son of an architect. His father died before he was two, and he spent most of his childhood with his mother and a great-aunt in an old house called Rooksnest, which later became the model for the country estate portrayed in Howard's End. Forster was teased and tormented mercilessly at the private school he attended as a day student and remained shy and timid throughout the rest of his life. However, he found intellectual companionship during his university years at King's College, Cambridge, where he joined a secret society of intellectuals called the Apostles.

Forster began contributing essays and stories to the newly formed Independent Review in 1903 and published his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, two years later. Like his later books, the novel looked at English discomfort with foreign cultures. Forster traveled widely, visiting Greece, Italy, and India, and later served with the Red Cross in Alexandria, Egypt, from 1915 to 1919. Forster made many close friends among the intellectual and literary "Bloomsbury set," including Virginia Woolf.

Forster published five novels by 1924 and received an honorary fellowship from his alma mater in 1946, which allowed him to live in Cambridge for the rest of his long life. Although Forster lived to be 91, he published no novels in his lifetime after A Passage to India, although a sixth novel, Maurice, which dealt with homosexuality, was published after his death.

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