Nicholas Shakespeare was born in Worcester, England in 1957 and grew up, a diplomat’s son, in Asia and Latin America. He studied literature at the University of Cambridge and worked as a journalist for the BBC and “The Times”. He was also literary editor of “The Daily Telegraph” and “The Sunday Telegraph” from 1988 to 1991. It was at this time that his first, award-winning novel, “The Vision of Elena Silves” (1989) was published. It narrates a love story played out against the backdrop of the ideologically divided Peruvian society. The character of the lover and student revolutionary is based on Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the Maoist guerilla group “The Shining Path”. Shakespeare had already tried, in the mid eighties, to draw closer to this fascinating and publicity-shy figure in his reportage “In Pursuit of Guzmán” for “Granta” magazine. The circumstances of Guzmán’s im pr isonment are dealt with in the novel “The Dancer Upstairs” (1995), which John Malkovich made into a movie based on Shakespeare’s screenplay. The story revolves around an ill-fated romance: after many years on the trail of the sought-after guerilla, a colonel finds him in a room above a dance school run by the ballet instructor he is in love with and realizes that she herself is involved in the movement.
In his later pr ose work too, Shakespeare kept alive his journalistic skills of re pr esentation, characterized by a richness of detail, first-hand experience, empathy and confident use of speech. He achieved fame, in particular, with the biography of the writer Bruce Chatwin. Without any glorification Shakespeare offers a pr ofound portrait which he spent eight years researching. In 2004 he pr esented another kind of portrait, this one in “In Tasmania”, a depiction of the southern Australian island, in which regional expeditions are rendered as literary events, in a way reminiscent of Chatwin’s own work. Personal experiences and family history make connections through an intermeshing of facts, anecdotes, reports and tales that allows for a wide-ranging vision of the island.
Shakespeare’s most recent novel is also set in Tasmania. “Secrets of the Sea” (2007) tells the story of a young couple whose fragile happiness is put to the test when a storm delivers a stranger to their house. Shakespeare himself has a home on Tasmania’s East Coast. He also lives in Wiltshire, England. Among his many distinctions are the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Award, the American Library Association Award, and the biennial 2007 Tasmania Book Prize. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 1999.