Culture Buff

Shirley Hazzard

19 October 2019

9:00 AM

19 October 2019

9:00 AM

A woman working on a thesis about Shirley Hazzard is a character in A Life to Come, the award-winning novel by Michelle de Kretser. The author has now become that character; de Kretser has published On Shirley Hazzard, written for the series Writers on Writers (Black inc.). A Life to Come has won several awards; when I wrote about that book in this column in November 2017, it took no particular foresight to imagine its success given her preceding six novels. Happily de Kretser has now turned her spotlight on Hazzard; it will serve as an introduction for those not yet familiar with her work and a treat for her long-time admirers; a ‘celebration of the precision and musicality of Hazzard’s prose’.

Shirley Hazzard (1931-2016) was born of Scottish immigrant parents and educated in Sydney, later moving to New York where she married biographer and novelist Francis Steegmuller. Ultimately they made their home on Capri. Hazzard’s literary career flourished: five novels including The Transit of Venus (1980), collections of stories and memoir. In 1984 she delivered memorable Boyer Lectures ‘characterised by an intellectual and linguistic elegance’. Her introductory note concluded: ‘It seems to me that Australia has long since come of age. Experience is there, and humanity, character and conscience. Only the realisation is awaited, and the inspired acceptance’.

We are indebted to Michelle de Kretser for her important reminder of the wonderful Shirley Hazzard.

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