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Andrea Ciccarelli
College Arts and Humanities Institute

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

IU College Arts and Humanities Institute to present public reading by leading British novelist

WHAT: Reading by novelist A. S. Byatt presented by the College Arts and Humanities Institute
WHEN: Monday (Oct. 12), 5 p.m.
WHERE: Indiana Memorial Union, Solarium

This event is free and open to the public. Those who have a disability and need assistance can call 812-856-1169.

Oct. 7, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's College Arts and Humanities Institute will present a free, open to the public reading by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt next Monday (Oct. 12) at 5 p.m. in the Indiana Memorial Union's Solarium.

A.S. Byatt

Photo by Eamonn McCabe

A.S. Byatt

Already a formidable literary figure in England, Byatt achieved best-seller status in the United States in 1990 with her Booker Prize-winning novel Possession: A Romance, a story about a clandestine love affair between two Victorian writers and the two modern-day academics who unearth their secret. The novel was made into a film in 2002. Her novella Morpho Eugenia (1992), in which she examines the similarities between anthills and 19th-century manor households, was made into the acclaimed 1995 film Angels and Insects.

Andrea Ciccarelli, director of the College Arts and Humanities Institute, said the institute's advisory board invited Byatt to campus because "she is considered one of the most important living writers and intellectuals."

Ciccarelli said Byatt's exploration of human behavior through gender relations and generational conflicts is among the most powerful in the world of literature today. "Books such as Possession, The Virgin in the Garden and the Babel Tower are a testament to her ability to narrate a story while investigating in depth the intricate nature of the human soul," he said.

Her latest novel, The Children's Book (2009), is a finalist for the Booker Prize that has been called "brilliant" by The Washington Post, and The Guardian wrote of the "very dark novel" that it "provides us with glimmers of hope." The Miami Herald wrote of the new novel, "Rich with period detail and sublime storytelling, A.S. Byatt's supremely fulfilling new novel is fat, busy and wondrous, jammed with a staggering amount of history, with characters and ideas that demand attention and threaten to overwhelm even the most avid reader. Only they don't."

The book is a re-creation of the period of time between the end of the 19th-century and the first world war.

Byatt has described her often-bedridden childhood self as having been "kept alive by fictions" -- mostly the novels of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott. A self-described "greedy reader," Byatt weaves her many interests, including biology, history and philosophy, into her work, resulting in novels with "the whole world in them," as she has often said. Her books teem with characters and ideas, presenting stories in which reading and writing usually prove a matter of life, death and freedom.

Byatt's other fiction includes The Biographer's Tale, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, The Matisse Stories, The Little Black Book of Stories and the quartet of novels about the 1950s and 1960s, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman. Her critical work includes Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch, Passions of the Mind: Selected Essays and On Histories and Stories. She is also the co-editor of Memory: An Anthology, edited with Harriet Harvey Wood, a non-fiction collection of essays.

"We are very fortunate that Dame Byatt has accepted our invitation, and that she will give a public talk and a seminar to selected students in our campus," Ciccarelli said.

For more information about the College Arts and Humanities Institute, see Future planned speakers include Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, and Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Teheran.