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Celebrating 40 Years of Virago Modern Classics

VMC 40

“Forty years ago, the Virago Modern Classics list was created by Carmen Callil, and it isn’t an overstatement to say that it changed literary history.”

To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Virago Modern Classics, this May Virago Press are publishing a baker’s dozen of stunning, deluxe paperbacks, designed by Hannah Wood and featuring artwork by the incredible illustrator, Yehrin Tong. The books in this series are by some of our most-loved writers: Antonia White, Elizabeth Taylor, Zora Neale Hurston, Angela Carter, Patricia Highsmith, Nora Ephron, Grace Paley, Janet Frame, Rosamond Lehmann, Mary Renault, Rebecca West, Muriel Spark and Elaine Dundy. There is something for everyone in this collection: New York short stories, Parisian high jinks, novels of magic, menace, humour, love and belonging. And they are introduced by some of the very best contemporary writers, including Sarah Waters, Hilary Mantel, George Saunders, Tessa Hadley, Zadie Smith, Gillian Flynn, Tom Holland, A. L. Kennedy, Elizabeth Day and Rachel Cooke.

We are also issuing a beautiful hardback, Writers as Readers: an anthology of forty introductions from the last four decades. The Virago Modern Classics list has always been a uniquely collaborative enterprise, with writers and readers suggesting favourite books for us to breathe new life into. This anthology celebrates the women and men who, from the list’s inception, have shared their knowledge and enthusiasm by writing wonderful introductions, championing the Virago Modern Classics as books that deserve once again to be read and loved.

Last, but by no means least, and I’m sure to the joy of many, this year we are reintroducing the iconic green spines across the whole list. I expect our readers, who we value deeply, will be pleased. This is a list that many hold dear to their hearts. As we do at Virago.

From Editorial Director of the Virago Modern Classics, Donna Coonan:

“Forty years ago, the Virago Modern Classics list was created by Carmen Callil, and it isn’t an overstatement to say that it changed literary history. Launching with Antonia White’s lyrical, devastating novel, Frost in May, the list’s aim was, and is, to celebrate women writers, to broaden the sometimes narrow definition of what a ‘classic’ is, and to demonstrate the existence of a female tradition in literature. Published with distinctive green spines, the list attracted an enthusiastic, dedicated following, which continues today.

If women’s stories aren’t published in all their variety, their voices are silenced and only part of human experience – both in the historical and imaginative landscapes – is represented. The Virago Modern Classics redrew the map to expose what had been hidden from view. It provided a counterbalance to the existing male-dominated perspective. Creating a platform that values the female experience as equal to the male is crucial: storytelling is central to what it is to be human, and giving a voice to generations of important but neglected women writers benefits everyone. History is incomplete without them.

In 2018, our ethos hasn’t changed. We are still growing, still rediscovering and publishing books to inspire, delight and challenge. As well as reissuing and revitalising our rich backlist with eye-catching new covers and incisive new introductions, in the last decade we’ve added nearly 170 titles to the list, including the complete fiction of Patricia Highsmith and Mary Renault, and brilliant books by writers including Muriel Spark, Beryl Bainbridge, Angela Thirkell and Rumer Godden, to name but a few. We have also recently extended our range to include a wonderful series of children’s classics – childhood favourites by authors such as Nina Bawden, Joan Aiken, L. M. Montgomery, E. Nesbit, P. L. Travers and Noel Streatfeild.”

Click here to view the anniversary collection.

• Virago Modern Classics 40th Anniversary editions publish 3rd May 2018, paperbacks with French flaps, £9.99

• Writers as Readers publishes 3rd May 2018, Hardback. £14.99