A Tribute to AS Byatt, the Booker Prize-winning Author and Critic


Dame Antonia Susan Byatt, better known as AS Byatt, was one of the most celebrated and influential writers of her generation. She passed away on 16 November 2023, at the age of 87, at her home in London. Her publisher, Penguin Random House, announced her death with a statement that expressed their deep sadness and praised her as a “brilliant mind and a prolific writer” who “enriched the literary landscape with her novels, short stories, essays, and criticism”.

Byatt was born in Sheffield, England, on 24 August 1936, as the eldest child of a judge and a scholar of Browning. She had a difficult childhood and a strained relationship with her mother, who felt trapped as a housewife. She found her escape in literature and academic work and attended the University of Cambridge, where she began working on her first two novels, Shadow of a Sun (1964) and The Game (1967). She married Ian Byatt in 1959 and moved to Durham, where she had four children. She later divorced him and married Peter Duffy in 1969.

Byatt’s career as a writer and critic spanned more than six decades, and she produced a remarkable body of work that explored themes such as art, history, love, gender, religion, and creativity. She was best known for her 1990 novel Possession: A Romance, which won the Booker Prize and became a worldwide bestseller. The novel is a complex and ingenious story of two contemporary scholars who uncover the secret affair between two Victorian poets through their letters, diaries, and poems. The novel showcases Byatt’s erudition, imagination, and mastery of language, as well as her fascination with intertextuality and metafiction.


A Distinguished Critic and a Generous Mentor

Byatt was not only a novelist but also a distinguished critic and a generous mentor. She wrote two studies of Dame Iris Murdoch, who was a friend and an inspiration to her. She also wrote essays and reviews on a wide range of topics, such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, George Eliot, Robert Browning, fairy tales, biographies, and contemporary fiction. She was a frequent contributor to The Guardian, The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She was also a guest editor of The Best American Essays in 2009.

Byatt was a supportive and encouraging figure to many young and aspiring writers, especially women. She was a patron of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and a judge of several literary awards, such as the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the David Cohen Prize. She also taught at various universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, and Harvard. She was known for her honesty, integrity, and generosity, as well as her wit, humor, and warmth.

A Celebrated and Honoured Figure

Byatt’s achievements and contributions were widely recognized and honored by the literary world and beyond. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1990, and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1999. She was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the British Academy, and the American Academy of Arts and Science. She received numerous awards and honors, such as the Shakespeare Prize, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the Erasmus Prize, the Park Kyong-ni Prize, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. She was also mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Byatt’s death has left a huge void in the literary world, and a profound sense of loss among her readers, colleagues, friends, and family. She is survived by her husband, Peter Duffy, her three daughters, Antonia, Lucy, and Isabel, her son, Charles, and her grandchildren, who called her “AS”. She will be remembered as a brilliant mind and a prolific writer, a distinguished critic and a generous mentor, and a celebrated and honored figure. She will also be remembered as a woman who lived a rich and full life, who loved and was loved, and who left behind a legacy of words and ideas that will continue to inspire and delight generations to come.

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

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