Interview by Nicolas Basbanes of A.S. Byatt about her novel Possession
Possession originally published 1990
Possession reviewed on this Blog 2007
Twenty years ago, A. S. Byatt published Possession, a novel that appealed to bibliophiles as much or more than Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose had ten years earlier. Possession follows two young academics as they uncover a secret affair between two nineteenth-century poets. The novel’s main subject heading in the Library of Congress catalogue is Manuscripts—Collectors and collecting—England—Fiction, which is telling. Old letters and manuscripts are found stuck in dusty old books and mysterious old houses, as the two scholars attempt to safeguard literary history from an unscrupulous American collector.
Possession won Britain’s Booker Prize in 1990 and was wildly acclaimed as the author’s breakthrough book. It also became a New York Times bestseller. Since then, Byatt has earned an international reputation for her erudite novels, including The Biographer’s Tale, Babel Tower, and, most recently, The Children’s Book. She was appointed a DBE (dame commander of the order of the British Empire) in 1999.
Nicholas Basbanes conducted the following interview with Byatt in Boston on May 31, 1996. A full transcript is included in Basbanes’ new book, About the Author: Inside the Creative Process.
Interview Source - Fine Books and Collections June 2010
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