AS Byatt: Author, critic and poet dies aged 87

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AS Byatt, pictured in 2011, won the Booker Prize for her 1990 novel Possession
By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

Novelist, critic and poet Dame AS Byatt has died at the age of 87, her publisher has announced.

The renowned writer, whose full name was Antonia Susan Byatt, won the Booker Prize for her 1990 novel Possession.

In a statement, Penguin Random House said they were “deeply saddened” to announce her death.

They described her as “one of the most significant writers and critics of our time”.

The author was appointed CBE 1990 and was made a dame nine years later.

In 2018 she received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. Dame Antonia’s work was translated into 38 languages.

Penguin said: “She died peacefully at home surrounded by close family. A girl from Sheffield with a strong European sensibility, Antonia had a remarkable mind which produced a unique creative vision.”

Dame Antonia was also known for writing 2009’s the Children’s Book, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Her most recent publication was a collection of short stories – 2021’s Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories (2021).

“Antonia’s Quaker schooling encouraged a clear independence of thought, and throughout her career she had an unerring ability to ask direct and searching questions,” Penguin said in their statement.

“Her novels showed a profound engagement with history and historical consciousness – and an understanding of the traditions in which she wrote – whether folktale or novel.

“And if her fiction offered an imaginative realm of ideas, it was also warm and engaging, and filled with unforgettable characters.”

Dame Antonia was born in 1936 and grew up in Sheffield and York. She studied English at Newnham College, Cambridge, Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia and at Oxford.

She began teaching at University College London in 1962, and published her first novel, Shadows of a Sun, two years later.

Tracy Chevalier, author of books including Girl With a Pearl Earring, was among those paying tributeon social media, writing: “RIP AS Byatt, your books have given us all such pleasure.”

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