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)

 

Motivation

The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award 2018 goes to British author, Dame Antonia Susan Byatt

Dame Byatt (born in 1936), one of our time’s most outstanding storytellers has delighted readers all over the world with her novels, which are often set in the 19th century, i.e. the time when H. C. Andersen himself lived. Byatt’s work is characterized by the oft-recurring central themes of family relations and class differences.

Byatt’s debut novel, The Shadow of the Sun, was published in 1964. It tells the story of a young girl who grows up in the shadow of her dominating father. Byatt further explores the family theme in the novel published three years later; The Game portrays the relationship between two sisters. Family relations are also the pivotal point in the quartet The Virgin in the Garden (1978 – Danish title: Jomfruen i Haven), Still life (1985 – Danish title: Stilleben), Babel Tower (1996 – Danish title: Babelstårn) and A Whistling Woman (2002 – Danish title: Kvinde der fløjter). Byatt has written a number of novels, but is equally masterful within the genres of short stories, essays and literary fairytales. The latest work from Byatt is a rework of the Ragnarok myth entitled Ragnarok – The End of the Gods (2011 – Danish title: Ragnarok – Gudernes undergang).

Byatt masters the art of creating unique literary magic in her use of different genres, and is therefore an obvious and worthy recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. Her principal work, the novel Possession (1990 – Danish title: Besættelse), even features a fairytale writer named Hans Andersen, who serves as a great inspiration for one of the main characters. Byatt often leads us back to Andersen’s own time and challenges its traditional characteristics, thereby enabling us to gain a new understanding of H. C. Andersen and to explore further aspects of both that time period and Andersen’s work.

”The Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award 2018 is conferred to Dame A.S. Byatt for her belief in the truth value of fairytales, fables and poetry and for her historical fiction which innovatively brings the works of Andersen alive.”