Shirley Hazzard, one of Virago’s greatest writers, died today in New York. She was 85 and had been ill for some time. Though born in Australia in 1931 she was a truly worldly woman who lived in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Italy and latterly, New York. By her own account she was a precocious girl with a`head full of poetry’ who drew on her extraordinary life and loves to create her fiction.
She came into Virago’s life as a Virago Modern Classic in 1995 with The Transit of Venus, the novel the New York Times Book Review called` a dose of the sublime’ – and that is no exaggeration. This is a beautiful and tragic novel about two Australian girls coming to post-war England. In 2000 we published her truly brilliant short book about her friendship with Graham Greene, Greene on Capri which was followed by the novel I love, The Great Fire. Twenty years in the writing, it is an intense and deeply moving novel set in war-torn Asia about the redemptive power of love. It was hailed by the likes of Michael Cunningham, Colm Toibin, Joan Didion and went on to be shortlisted for The Orange Prize in the UK and to win American National Book Award and The Miles Franklin Award in Australia.
Elegant and articulate, generous and funny, Shirley was a wonderful companion: full of ideas, eager to talk books, passions, politics and about life with a capital L. We will miss her very much.
Lennie Goodings, Virago Publisher.