Literary Birthday – 17 March – Penelope Lively

Happy Birthday, Penelope Lively, born 17 March 1933.


  1. You learn a lot, writing fiction.
  2. You write out of experience, and a large part of that experience is the life of the spirit; reading is the liberation into the minds of others.
  3. I’m intrigued by the way in which physical appearance can often direct a person’s life; things happen differently for a beautiful woman than for a plain one.
  4. All history, of course, is the history of wars.
  5. The pleasure of writing fiction is that you are always spotting some new approach, an alternative way of telling a story and manipulating characters; the novel is such a wonderfully flexible form.
  6. It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.
  7. All I know for certain is that reading is of the most intense importance to me; if I were not able to read, to revisit old favourites and experiment with names new to me, I would be starved – probably too starved to go on writing myself.
  8. I do like to embed a fictional character firmly in an occupation.
  9. An ending is an artificial device; we like endings, they are satisfying, convenient, and a point has been made. But time does not end, and stories march in step with time.
  10. I’ve always been fascinated by the operation of memory – the way in which it is not linear but fragmented, and its ambivalence.
  11. Language tethers us to the world; without it we spin like atoms.
  12. History is a slippery business; the past is not a constant but a landscape that mutates according to argument and opinion.
  13. For me, reading is my essential palliative, my daily fix.
  14. We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse: we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard.

Penelope Lively is a popular and critically acclaimed English author of fiction for children and adults. She won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger and the Carnegie Medal for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe. She was appointed CBE in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List, and DBE in 2012.

Source for Image: Author’s website

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 17th March 2014

1 thought on “Literary Birthday – 17 March – Penelope Lively”

  1. Renate Thompson

    Penelope has clearly never lived in deepest darkest Africa, where your nearest bookstore is a flight away, with a weight restriction of 15kg per person! I love my kindle – it has changed expat life!

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