About A.S. Byatt

Dame Antonia Susan Byatt (born in 1936) is an English novelist and poet, known professionally as A.S. Byatt. She has been described as a born storyteller with a keen eye for relations in public and private life.

She will receive the award at Odense City Hall, Denmark, on Sunday 28 October 2018. As have all recipients, Dame Antonia will receive a bronze sculpture, “The Ugly Duckling,” by Danish sculptor Stine Ring Hansen; a diploma, “The Beauty of the Swan”; and 500,000 Danish kroner.

The award committee had this to say in describing their decision, “The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award 2018 is conferred on A.S. Byatt for her belief in the true value of fairy tales, fables, and poetry and for her historical fiction which innovatively brings the works of Andersen to life.”

Byatt has written dozens of (historical) novels, biographies, short stories, and critical essays. In a wide-ranging body of work, she unites great erudition with an unbridled pleasure in writing and imaginative power. Her work covers a range of genres, literary forms, and subjects. She immerses the reader in the history of European thinking, taking as her starting point significant questions about science, history, and identity.

The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award committee notes that her novels “are often set during the age of H.C. Andersen in the 19th century. Typically, the focus of her stories is family relations and class differences.”

Among her recurring themes are the influence of art on life, magic and realism, and the conflict between ambition and family. Her body of work brings together not only artists and academics, but also fairy tales and myths. Many of her novels, including The Biographer’s Tale and Possession, explore the act of writing a biography or conducting research.

The Award committee continues, “A.S. Byatt masters the art of creating literary magic through her use of different genres, making her a worthy recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.” In Possession (1990), she introduces a character named Hans Andersen, a fairy tale writer, who serves as an important inspiration for one of the book’s main characters.

The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award is the latest of nearly three dozen international awards and prizes that she has received, including her appointments as Commander of the British Empire (1990) and Dame of the British Empire (1999). She receives the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award in her 83rd year.

A.S. Byatt's acceptance letter

Dear Jens,

It was a great pleasure to meet you and Renate at Claridge’s with Sam Edenborough on Friday, and to hear more about the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. This is indeed a great honour, and I am very happy to accept. I am thinking about what I might say or discuss, and I shall write to you very soon about this.

With all good wishes,

Antonia (A.S. Byatt)