Papers of Alec Brown

Scope and Content

The collection comprises material created and collected during the literary career of Alec Brown. It contains Brown's fiction and non-fiction writing as well as his work as a translator, which forms a significant part of the collection. The material consists of typescripts of published and unpublished work, correspondence, news-cuttings and notes. It also includes rare editions of early Soviet writers including Pasternak and Leonov, and Serbo-Croat writers including Vuco and Davico, plus a large collection of Slavonic printed books from the period between the two world wars.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alec Brown, (1900-1962), poet, attended a Suffolk primary school, Eye Grammar School and then two years at Leiston Secondary School. He went to Cambridge in 1917 on a county scholarship in Natural Sciences but instead read for a tripos in French and Russian. He also supplemented this with courses of music and economics, adding a special diploma in Yugoslav studies. During his three years at Cambridge he was also involved with the Yugoslav students club and helped found an International fellowship. In 1920 he left England for Belgrade and worked as a Serbian language master and then as a reader in English in Belgrade University. During this time he also performed various journalistic tasks in Serbian, Russian and English.

In 1929 he went to Macedonia with the Belgrade National Museum to carry out excavation work there. During 1930-1932 he helped obtain funds for excavations at Vinca of Danubian Culture for the Belgrade University where he became assistant professor on the project. He was decorated with the Order of St. Sava by the Yugoslav government for this work. He also began his literary career in the 1920s, translating work mainly from Serbian and Russian and writing his own pieces. Much of the 1930s were spent back in Britain, mainly in Suffolk, writing and also studying agricultural economics and continuing his research into Russian affairs. For a time he advised a Russian authors' literary agency on books suitable for the British market.

Between 1940 and 1942, Alec Brown was employed at Clayesmore School, as acting History and English master, but changed job again to join the Yugoslav Government service in London, in an advisory and liaison capacity. He continued there until 1946 and supplemented this with work as a lecturer at London University on the Social and Economic History of the Balkan Peninsula as well as writing for the Slavonic Review.

Brown made his mark on the literary scene primarily as a translator from Russian and Serbian as well as some from French. Such works include Pasternak's 'Safe Conduct' and Remizov's 'The Fifth Pestilence'. He also wrote his own novels his first being 'The Honest Bounder'. Others included 'The Hollow Mountain' and 'Angelo's Moon'. However, as the 'Observer' explained in his obituary, 'Brown was too much of an individualist ever to be associated with groups or movements and his novels, always original in approach, varied too much in their interest for him to build up a following of readers.' With so many strings to his bow the 'Observer' felt that Brown would be best remembered as a 'devoted Slavophil, of one of those numerous breed of Englishmen who by giving their best to another country further the unity of civilization.'

Reference: obituaries published in the 'Observer' and 'The Times'


The majority of material has been arranged under the following headings:

Published novels
Unpublished novels
Edited work
Published non-fiction
Unpublished non-fiction
Short works (short stories, articles, talks, book reviews - published and unpublished)
Writings in Serbo-Croat
Translation work (arranged by author)

Boxes 41-45 contain a mixture of translation work, miscellaneous papers, personal papers and unsorted material

Access Information

Access to all registered researchers, however, all potential researchers should contact Special Collections in advance of any visit to request materials from this list and will be required to make a specific appointment to consult the collection providing at least 10 working days notice.

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased in 1974.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online catalogue for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.