Author A.S. Byatt, who wrote the best-seller 'Possession,' dies at 87

A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt, an author known for her work "Possession," which won a Booker Prize, has passed away at 87 years old. The news of her death was confirmed by a photograph taken by Peter Jordan.

A.S. Byatt - Figure 1
Photo NPR

A.S. Byatt, a renowned writer who won the prestigious Booker Prize for her novel "Possession," has passed away at the age of 87.

A.S. Byatt, a writer from Britain, passed away at the age of 87. She was known for incorporating history, mythology, and her keen observation of human flaws into her literary works, such as the award-winning novel "Possession."

On Friday, Chatto & Windus, the publisher of Byatt, announced that the writer, who was also known as Antonia Byatt, passed away on Thursday while being comforted by her immediate family in her own home.

During her career, Byatt authored a total of twenty-four books, with her debut novel being "The Shadow of the Sun" back in 1964. Her creations were translated into thirty-eight different languages.

The book "Possession" was released in 1990 and tells the story of two intellectuals who research the lives of two fake poets from the Victorian age. The tale comprises of two love stories, one contemporary and the other made up of imitation Victorian letters and poems. It became a major hit and won the well-respected Booker Prize.

Upon receiving the award, Byatt expressed that "Possession" is a celebration of the pleasure gained from reading.

She mentioned that she wrote her book while being in a state of euphoria caused by the joys of reading.

The novel "Possession" was transformed into a movie in 2002 featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. Many of Byatt's books have also been made into films. "Morpho Eugenia," which is a dark Victorian novella included in the 1992 book "Angels and Insects," was turned into a movie in 1995 with the same name. It starred Mark Rylance and Kristin Scott Thomas.

In 1995, her brief tale titled "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" earned the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction. This tale served as inspiration for the upcoming fantasy movie "Three Thousand Years of Longing," scheduled to be released in 2022. The acclaimed "Mad Max" director, George Miller helms this project with Idris Elba playing the role of a genie, who recounts stories while Tilda Swinton essays the character of an academic.

A.S. Byatt - Figure 2
Photo NPR

Additional works by Byatt consist of a series of four novels called the Frederica Quartet, set in 1950s and 1960s England. The novels in the quartet are recognized as "The Virgin in the Garden" from 1978, along with "Still Life," "Babel Tower," and "A Whistling Woman." Furthermore, Byatt authored "The Children's Book" in 2009, which was a finalist for the Booker Prize. This particular novel is a grand depiction of Edwardian England, focusing on a protagonist who is a storyteller of fairy tales.

The book she wrote and published in 2021 is called "Medusa's Ankles," and it's a collection of short stories.

According to Zoe Waldie, who is the literary agent representing Byatt, the author's writing has captivated readers with its intricate layers, diverse range, and profound intellectualism. Byatt cleverly weaves myths and metaphysics throughout her work, keeping readers hooked in anticipation.

According to Clara Farmer, who works as a publisher at Chatto & Windus, an organization that belongs to Penguin Random House, Byatt's written works are like enchanting treasure chests full of captivating tales and innovative concepts.

“We are saddened by her passing, but we find solace in the fact that her profound creations will continue to amaze and inspire readers for many years to come,” stated Farmer.

Antonia Susan Drabble was born in 1936 in Sheffield, located in northern England. Her sister is the well-known author, Margaret Drabble. Byatt experienced a Quaker upbringing and pursued her education at Cambridge University. Later, she worked as a lecturer at a university.

In 1959, she tied the knot with Ian Byatt, an economist. Together, they welcomed a son and a daughter into their lives; however, they later got divorced. A tragic event took place in 1972 when her 11-year-old son, Charles, was hit by a car while walking back home from school, resulting in his unfortunate demise.

Byatt got a teaching job at University College London to pay for Charles' schooling, but unfortunately he passed away soon after. She then revealed to The Guardian in 2009 that she remained in the job for as long as he was alive, which was 11 years. However, in 1983 she decided to quit so she could focus on writing full-time.

Byatt resided in London together with her second spouse, Peter Duffy, and they had two daughters.

In the year 1999, Byatt was granted the title of dame by Queen Elizabeth II as a recognition for her contributions to literature. This title is equivalent to that of a knight but for females. Later, in the year 2003, Byatt was also awarded the title of chevalier or a knight by the Order of Arts and Letters in France.

She was honored in 2014 when a type of colorful beetle was given the name Euhylaeogena byattae Hespenheide. This was in recognition of her portrayal of nature enthusiasts in "Morpho Eugenia."

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