A. S. Byatt: Wikis


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A. S. Byatt

Byatt in June 2007 at Lyon, France.
Born Antonia Susan Drabble
24 August 1936 (1936-08-24) (age 73)
Sheffield, England, U.K.
Occupation Writer, poet
Nationality British
Period 1964–present
Official website

Dame Antonia Susan Duffy, DBE (born 24 August 1936, Sheffield) is an English novelist, poet and Booker Prize winner. In 2008, The Times newspaper named her among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[1] She is the daughter of His Honour John Frederick Drabble, QC and late Kathleen Marie Bloor, and is married to Peter Duffy. She is usually known as A. S. Byatt. Her younger sisters are the novelist Dame Margaret Drabble and the art historian Helen Langdon.


Life and career

Born as Antonia Susan Drabble, she was educated at The Mount School, York, Newnham College Cambridge, Bryn Mawr in the United States, and at Somerville College, Oxford, although her research grant to the latter institution (dependent on single status) ended with her first marriage to Ian Byatt (later Sir Ian Byatt)[2] in 1959. Her younger sister is the novelist Margaret Drabble and their younger sister is the art historian Helen Langdon.

She lectured in the Department of Extra-Mural Studies of London University (1962–71),[3] the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and from 1972 to 1983 at University College London.[3]

Byatt's first novel, The Shadow of the Sun, the story of a young girl growing up in the shadow of a dominant father, was published in 1964 and was followed by The Game (1967), a study of the relationship between two sisters.[3] The Virgin in the Garden (1978) is the first book in a quartet about the members of a Yorkshire family. The story continues in Still Life (1985), which won the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award, and Babel Tower (1996). The fourth (and final) novel in the quartet is A Whistling Woman (2002). The quartet describes mid-20th-century Britain and Frederica's life as a young female intellectual studying at Cambridge, at a time when women were heavily outnumbered by men at that university, and later, as a divorcée with a young son making a new life in London. Like Babel Tower, A Whistling Woman covers the 1960s and dips into the utopian and revolutionary dreams of the time. The Matisse Stories, (1993) features three stories, each describing a painting by Henri Matisse that inspired Byatt, each the tale of an initially smaller crisis that shows the long-present unravelling in the protagonists' lives.

Possession (1990) is her best known novel, which parallels the emerging relationship of two contemporary academics with the past of two (fictional) nineteenth century poets whom they are researching. It won the Man Booker Prize in 1990. The Children's Book was shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

Also known for her short stories, Byatt has been influenced by Henry James and George Eliot as well as Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, and Robert Browning, in merging realism and naturalism with fantasy. In her quartet of novels about mid-century England, she is clearly indebted to D. H. Lawrence, particularly to The Rainbow and Women in Love. Iris Murdoch, about whose early works Byatt wrote a book of criticism, was also an influence. In those books and other works, Byatt alludes to, and builds upon, themes from Romantic and Victorian literature. She conceives of fantasy as an alternative to—rather than an escape from—everyday life, and it is often difficult to tell when the fantastic in her work actually represents the eruption of psychosis. More recent books by Byatt have brought to the fore her interest in science, particularly cognitive science and zoology.

Two of Byatt's works have been adapted into motion pictures: Possession (2002) and Angels & Insects (1995).

Byatt has written for the British intellectual journal Prospect and for The Guardian. She was awarded a CBE in 1990 and the DBE in 1999.

Personal life

Her second husband is Peter Duffy, whom she married in 1969. She has four children, one of whom was killed in a car accident at the age of 11 and about whom she wrote the poem 'Dead Boys' [4]. On the role of writing in her life, she says:

'I think of writing simply in terms of pleasure. It's the most important thing in my life, making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes these things. I, who I am, is the person that has the project of making a thing. Well, that's putting it pompously – but constructing. I do see it in sort of three-dimensional structures. And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all these people.' [4]

Member of

  • Social Effects of Television Advisory Group BBC, 1974–77;
  • Associate of Newnham College, Cambridge, 1977–82
  • Board of Communications and Cultural Studies, CNAA, 1978–84;
  • Board of Creative and Performing Arts, CNAA, 1985–87;
  • Kingman Committee of Inquiry into the teaching of English Language, (Department of Education and Science) 1987–88;
  • Management Committee, Society of Authors, 1984–88 (Deputy Chairman, 1986, Chairman, 1986–88);
  • Board, British Council, 1993–98 (Member of Literature Advisory Panel, 1990–98).
  • Judge of literary prizes including Hawthornden, Booker, David Higham, Betty Trask


  • The Shadow of the Sun, Chatto & Windus, 1964
  • Degrees of Freedom: The Early Novels of Iris Murdoch, Chatto & Windus, 1965
  • The Game, Chatto & Windus, 1967
  • Wordsworth and Coleridge in Their Time, Nelson, 1970
  • Iris Murdoch: A Critical Study, Longman, 1976
  • The Virgin in the Garden, Chatto & Windus, 1978
  • Still Life, Chatto & Windus, 1985
  • Sugar and Other Stories, Chatto & Windus, 1987
  • Unruly Times: Wordsworth and Coleridge, Poetry and Life, Hogarth Press, 1989
  • George Eliot: Selected Essays, Poems and Other Writings (editor with Nicholas Warren), Penguin, 1990
  • Possession: A Romance, Chatto & Windus, (1990 ISBN 0 7011 3260 4)
  • Passions of the Mind: Selected Writings, Chatto & Windus, 1991
  • Angels & Insects, Chatto & Windus, 1992
  • The Matisse Stories Chatto & Windus, 1993
  • The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, Chatto & Windus, 1994
  • Imagining Characters: Six Conversations about Women Writers (with Ignes Sodre), Chatto & Windus, 1995
  • New Writing Volume 4 (editor with Alan Hollinghurst), Vintage, 1995
  • Babel Tower, Chatto & Windus, 1996
  • New Writing Volume 6 (editor with Peter Porter), Vintage, 1997
  • Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice, Chatto & Windus, 1998
  • Oxford Book of English Short Stories (editor), Oxford University Press, 1998
  • On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays, Chatto & Windus, 2000
  • The Biographer's Tale, Chatto & Windus, 2000
  • Portraits in Fiction, Chatto & Windus, 2001
  • The Bird Hand Book (with photographs by Victor Schrager), Graphis Inc. (New York), 2001
  • A Whistling Woman, Chatto & Windus, 2002
  • Little Black Book of Stories, Chatto & Windus, 2003
  • The Children's Book, Chatto & Windus, 2009 (ISBN 9780701183899)

Prizes and awards

She has been granted the title of "Duchess of Morpho Eugenia" by the Spanish writer Javier Marías, claimant to the micronational title of King of Redonda.[citation needed]


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dame Antonia Byatt, DBE (born August 24, 1936, Sheffield, England) has been hailed as one of the great postmodern novelists in Britain. She is usually known as A. S. Byatt.


Possession (1990)

  • Despite the snow, despite the falling snow.
    • Page 149.
  • I shall from time to time write a small Clue - so that you may be the more thoroughly confounded.
    • Page 178.
  • And where may hide what came and loved our clay? as the Poet asked finely.
    • Page 223.
    • The poet being Robert Browning in Epilogue in his collection of poems Dramatis Personae.

External links

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