In a series of essays on the complicated relations between reading, writing, and remembering, gifted novelist and critic A.S. Byatt sorts the modish from the merely interesting and the truly good to arrive at a new view of British writing in our time.
As novelists become increasingly interested in history as fiction and fiction as history, this study is designed to redraw the map of the boundaries of modern fiction. In her opening essays - "Fathers", "Forefathers" and "Ancestors" - the author considers the renaissance of the historical novel. She discusses in particular the novel of wartime experience; the surprising variety of distant pasts that British writers have invented; and the new "Darwinian novel", stimulated in part by the discovery of DNA. These afford new readings of writers from Elizabeth Bowen and Henry Green to Anthony Burgess, William Golding and Muriel Spark, and other contemporary authors, including Penelope Fitzgerald, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, John Fuller, Hilary Mantel and Pat Barker. Byatt also offers an insight into her own translation of historical fact into fiction in the two novellas which make up "Angels and Insects", while in "Old Stories, New Forms", she explores the recent European revival of interest in myth, folktale and fairytale.
Educated at York and Newnham College, Cambridge, she taught at the Central School of Art and Design, and was Senior Lecturer in English at University College, London, before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. She was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999.
"Going from reference to reference in these glittering pages provides you with an essential reading-list for life" The Times "Invigorating criticism" Independent on Sunday "Biographers, as well as novelists, will find much to celebrate in a collection of essays that is so lavish with quotations from philosophers, essayists and historians... An elegant and thoughtful collection" Literary Review "Reminds us definitively that she is not only one of our best living novelists, but one of our most astute readers, too. We are lucky to have her" New Statesman "A rare and perhaps unique figure; a critic whose insights are full of a sympathetic, creative and re-creative imagination...The mind that produced splendid, strange fictions is also a first-rate critical intelligence... A writer of remarkable, broad sympathies" Observer
Byatt is one of Britain's most distinguished novelists and critics. The author of 12 works of fiction, she has also written on Iris Murdoch, Wordsworth, Coleridge and other literary subjects. She taught English and American Literature at University College, London before giving up academia to write full time. Her scholarly background is evident in all her fiction and adds an elegance to her essays but there is nothing esoteric in her musings. In this collection she considers history as fiction and fiction as history. She unapologetically quotes extensively from a wide range of novels, believing that it is important for the reader of criticism to move away from the current vogue of merely reading other critics and return to the text themselves. In this, she is writing primarily as a novelist herself. It is a powerful combination and makes these essays particularly interesting. She is a perceptive reader, aware all the time of the connections between novelists both chronologically and thematically. This collection will inspire readers to try many unfamiliar novels as well as returning to old favourites. (Kirkus UK)
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