A.S. Byatt was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England in 1936. She spent her childhood in Pontefract, where she went to a Quaker boarding school and undertook the very first steps of a literary career. She studied in Cambridge and began working on her doctor’s thesis at Oxford University which dealt with the English literature of the 17th century. Byatt taught at different universities and schools in London, before she decided to dedicate herself exclusively to writing. Margaret Drabble, the writer and literary critic, is her sister.
Her first novel »The Shadow of the Sun« was published in 1964: A group of six with extrasensory powers holds a séance in the home of a retired captain in 1875. One woman establishes a link with the ghost of her deceased old flame, who promises marriage in the hereafter. »The Virgin in the Garden«, appeared in 1978, followed by »Still Life« (1985), »Babel Tower« (1996) and »A Whistling Woman« (2002). The tetralogy covers several decades and tells the life of three children of a headmaster. In the focus is Frederica Potter, the second eldest, who has a lot in common with the author. Her intelligent and entertaining prize-winning bestseller »Possession« (1990), which was made a movie by Neil LaBute in 2002, is about a scholar of literature, who − accidentally − discovers the draft of a letter from a Victorian poet to a lady, who allegedly died as a spinster. The correspondence of the secret lovers triggers a number of incidents, until eventually, one night at the grave of the poet all protagonists involved meet: a supervisor, a militant feminist, and the poet’s descendants, who fear for the reputation of the loyal family man. In her novel, Byatt virtuously employs different linguistic registers, including the style of creepy English stories, detective stories, fairy tales, epics, letters of the 19th century, and modern scientific jargon. In an artful way she combines the different strands of the story. Her themes include bourgeois everyday life. Her heroes belong to all social classes, and, thus, represent a realistic picture of modern western societies.
A.S. Byatt has received numerous awards for her novels, including the Booker Prize and the Irish-Times-Prize, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the Shakespeare Award. Queen Elizabeth II made her a »Commander of the Order of the British Empire« in 1990, and she was appointed »Dame Commander« in 1999. She lives in London.
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