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The enigma of simplicity

Alan Bennett's deceptively conservative Englishness has made him a national treasure. The more complex he becomes, the more people love his plainness

By David Herman   November 2005

Untold Stories by Alan Bennett (Faber/Profile, £20)

Alan Bennett is always telling us how hopeless he is. He goes to Oxford and gets a first in history. “I was a safe, plodding second,” he writes. “I knew it and my college knew it too.” He goes on to be a huge success with Beyond the Fringe. “In April 1961 we did a run-through of the show for the benefit of Donald Albery, the leading London manager of the time. He was far from certain that the show would be a success but of one thing he was convinced: ‘The fair-haired…

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