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Vale Dame Antonia Susan Byatt (1954)


Dame Antonia Susan Byatt, DBE, HonFBA
The Mount, 1949 – 1954

AS Byatt. Photo courtesy of M Trevellian. All rights reserved.


Dame Antonia Susan Byatt, better known for her pen name AS Byatt (1936 – 2023) was an award-winning novelist, short-story writer and critic of international renown. After finishing College at The Mount in 1954, she attended Newnham College, Cambridge, Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania and Somerville College, Oxford.

She taught in the Extra-Mural Department (later incorporated into Birkbeck, University of London) from 1962 to 1971 and the Central School of Art and Design. She was a lecturer in English and American Literature at University College London from 1972-1983 before returning to full-time writing.

Her novels include Possession (winner of the 1990 Booker Prize)The Children’s Book (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction), and the Frederica Quartet, comprising The Virgin in the GardenStill LifeBabel Tower and A Whistling Woman. Her books have been translated into thirty-two different languages.

She was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 2016 for her’ inspiring contribution to life writing and the Pak Kyongni Prize in 2017. In 2018 she received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. She was awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of London in 1995.

A.S. Byatt was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999 for services to literature. In 2003 she was made Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), and the following year was made a Fellow of University College London. Canada awarded her the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix in 2009. In 2014 she was made a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded the Erasmus Prize 2016 for her’ inspiring contribution to life writing’ and the Pak Kyongni Prize 2017 (Korea), awarded annually to a novelist who has made a distinguished contribution toward the development of a pure spirit of letters, rejecting the allure of worldly gain. Also, in 2017 she was made an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy. In 2018 she received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (Denmark) for internationally recognised storytellers. The same year she was awarded the Charleston-Bede Award for a lifetime’s excellence in short fiction. In 2020 she was awarded the Jing Dong Prize for translated literary fiction.

Her short story, The Djinn In The Nightingale’s Eye was adapted for the film, 3000 Years of Longing, starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba.

Antonia was the sister of Dame Margaret Drabble and Professor Helen Langdon, also Mount Old Scholars, and their brother Richard Drabble KC, who attended Bootham.

Penguin, her publisher, said that, “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. 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.

May she rest in the Light.

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