The British writer Colin Wilson (1931 – 2013) died last night in Cornwall just before midnight, local time. Wilson, who became a celebrity at twenty-six on the publication of his first book The Outsider in 1956, was a prolific writer on a wide variety of topics from philosophy, with special attention to existentialism, to literature, history, and the occult. Wilson was never what one might call a traditionalist, but he was an inveterate critic of modernity and a defender of religion against its materialist-positivist detractors. Wilson’s authorship encompassed both fiction and nonfiction. In fiction, he exploited genre-formulas in ingenious ways, as in his first and in many ways most ambitious novel, Ritual in the Dark (1960). His science fiction The Space Vampires was adapted to the silver screen by Tobe Hooper under the title Life Force in the mid-1980s, but the adaptation did little credit to its author. Ritual in the Dark, several times optioned for cinema, regrettably never made it to the screen, large or small. Wilson, an impressive autodidact, developed a core of devoted readers who took many cues from his intellectual independence and admired him for the nonconformist freedom witnessed by his contrarian interests.
An excellent introduction to Wilson’s thinking is the immediate sequel to The Outsider, Religion and the Rebel (1957), whose chapters on literature, history, and philosophy constitute an important polemic against the deadening cultural assumptions of the mid-Twentieth Century. Wilson had befriended Albert Camus just before the latter’s fatal automobile accident. Wilson’s work may be seen as an Anglo-Saxon parallel to Camus’ work although Wilson, in contrast to Camus, was never distracted by politics.