The British author A.S. Byatt, whose books include the Booker Prize-winning novel “Possession ” has passed away at the age of 87.
Byatt’s publisher, Chatto & Windus, announced on Friday that the author died “peacefully at home amongst close family.”
Starting with her first novel, “The Shadow of the Sun,” published in 1964, Byatt went on to write a dozen books. Her novel “Possession,” published in 1990, tells the story of two modern scholars investigating the lives of Victorian poets. The novel, which skillfully combines imitation Victorian writing with modern romance, became a bestseller and won the prestigious Booker Prize. It was adapted into a film in 2002 starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
Among her other works are four novels based in Britain in the 1950s and 60s, collectively known as the Frederica Quartet – “The Virgin in the Garden” (1978), followed by “Still Life,” “Babel Tower,” and “A Whistling Woman.” She also wrote the Booker Prize-shortlisted historical novel “The Children’s Book,” which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2009.
The short stories include “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” whose titular story won the 1995 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, and inspired the 2022 film “Three Thousand Years of Longing” directed by George Miller.
Another collection of stories, “Medusa’s Ankles,” was published in 2021.
Byatt’s literary agent, Zoe Waldie, said the author “entranced readers with writing that was expansive, ceaselessly varied, and deeply intellectually engaged with myths and metaphysics.”
Clara Farmer, Byatt’s publisher at Chatto & Windus, stated that the author’s books, translated into 38 languages, were the “most wonderful treasure trove of stories and ideas,” leaving an indelible mark on readers’ minds with “multi-layered, endlessly varied, and profoundly intellectual engagement with myths and metaphysics.”
Farmer said, “We mourn her loss, but take comfort knowing that her intellectually charged creations will spark, shine, and impress in the minds of readers for generations to come.”
Born Antonia Drabble in 1936 in Sheffield, Northern England – her sister is the novelist Margaret Drabble – Byatt grew up in a Quaker family, attended the University of Cambridge, and worked as a university lecturer.
She married economist Ian Byatt in 1959 and had a daughter and a son before divorcing. In 1972, her 11-year-old son, Charles, was killed in a car accident on his way home from school, shortly before her divorce.
Byatt immediately took a teaching position at University College London to pay for her surviving son’s private school fees. After Charles’s death, she worked for nine years “as long as he lived, meaning 11 years” until he finished school, at University College London. In 1983, she left her job to become a full-time writer.
Byatt lived in London with her second husband, Peter Duffy, with whom she had two daughters.