A S Byatt

Literary Birthday – 24 August – A.S. Byatt

A. S. Byatt was born 24 August 1936anddied 16 November 2023.

A.S. Byatt Quotes

  1. Independent women must expect more of themselves, since neither men nor other more conventionally domesticated women will hope for anything, or expect any result other than utter failure.
  2. What makes me write is a passion for language rather like a potter’s for clay. I knew I needed to write from the moment I learned to read.
  3. Vocabularies are crossing circles and loops. We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by.
  4. Don’t start the writing before you know where you are going. I do a lot of work in notebooks before setting pen to paper. I still write by hand.
  5. If you’re going to argue about how to behave, you’re going to need language. …Language remains the element in which we move, rather like air, which means it will be quite hard to kill the novel. The novel is one person talking to another person at every single level in language.
  6. I sit at a desk preferably in front of a window looking out on trees, and write by hand. If I get stuck, I read rather than just sitting. I never listen to music but I do need bright light. I have an artificial sunlight lamp in the winter.
  7. I write anything serious by hand still… There’s that wonderful phrase of Wordsworth’s about ‘feeling along the heart’, and I think I write with the blood that goes to the ends of my fingers, and it is a very sensuous act. For that reason I could never learn to write what I think of as real writing with the cut-and-paste on the computer because I have to have a whole page in front of me that I wrote, like a piece of knitting.
  8. I do my journalism on the computer with the word count. I love the word count. I can write a piece now to the word, to the length, and then I put the word count on and triumphantly it says three hundred and two. It’s a quite different thing.
  9. I sit out of doors with very large numbers of very large stones and other objects on top of the pieces of paper that blow away in the wind. I’ve got a cast-iron mermaid and an enormous ammonite that a French ethnologist gave me that came up out of the bed of the road. I put these on the paper and I sit there scribbling in a kind of tempest. It’s great fun.
  10. A Cambridge friend of mine said that writing novels was a kind of power game: Writers rearrange the world to suit their own views and needs. People usually find that they do not like being ‘put into’ someone else’s fiction: They feel threatened or distorted or diminished.
  11. It’s a terrible poison, writing. You just get to the point of your novel where you see the metaphor unfolding and you see the next three pages right in front of you, and the phone rings from school. And that completely interrupts your rhythm.
  12. What literature can and should do is change the people who teach the people who don’t read the books.

A.S. Byatt is an English novelist, poet, and Booker Prize winner. She is the elder sister of Margaret Drabble. Her novels include The Shadow of the Sun, Still Life, and Possession. A distinguished critic as well as a writer of fiction, A.S .Byatt was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999.

Source for Image


Seamus Kearney, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 24th August 2013

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