Award-winning British writer Hilary Mantel dies at 70 – The Irish Times

Her publisher said on Twitter Friday that Hilary Mantel has passed away at the age of 70.

“We are saddened by the passing of our beloved writer, Mrs. Hilary Mantell, and our thoughts are with her friends and family, and especially her husband, Gerald,” 4 State Books said.

“This is a devastating loss and we can only be grateful that she left us with such a wonderful job.”

HarperCollins said: “It is with great sadness that AM Heath and HarperCollins announce that best-selling author Dame Hilary Mantel DBE passed away suddenly and quietly yesterday, surrounded by family and close friends, at the age of 70. Hilary Mantel was one of the greatest English novelists of the century. Her beloved works are considered Modern classics. We will miss them very much.”

She won the Man Booker Prize twice, for Wolf Hall (2009) and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012), which also won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year. The trilogy finale, The Mirror & the Light (2020), won the award. Walter Scott for Historical Fiction, which won her first for Wolf Hall.

Mantell and her husband Gerald McEwan moved to West Cork earlier this year, where they lived for many years in Bodley Salterton on the Devon Coast. She told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper last year that she hoped to obtain Irish citizenship and become “European again”. She said the popularity of the monarchy “baffled her”.

“I don’t want to think that people are enslaved by nature, and really enjoy inequality, though I understand that they prefer change over continuity,” she said. “I may breathe easier in a republic, and I may be able to arrange that. I hope to go back to my family’s story and become an Irish citizen.”

Mantell grew up in Derbyshire but said she was heavily influenced by her Irish ancestry.

“My parents were born in England,” she said, “but the generation that formed me was from before that generation, and I was conscious of belonging to an Irish family.” “We were northerners, working class and Catholic, and to me the English were Protestant and southern, owned by people with more money.

Mantell said that English storytellers are fortunate. Nobody has “a king who had six wives and executed two of them, or a 16-year-old girl who was queen for nine days”. The Tudor family “is a gift, and it is the gift that keeps on giving.” In addition to the dramatic fates of Henry’s wives, Thomas Cromwell resonates as a typical story. “It’s a breach of affluence, an obscurity of fame, ups and downs,” she says. “Any nation that has warlords has Cromwell. Even if they do not share our special historical and political structure, they understand the man who is in the making.”

Mantell suffered from severe endometriosis that doctors overlooked and refused until she diagnosed herself from a medical book. She wrote candidly about the disease and its effects in her memoirs, Abandoning the Ghost (2003), and an essay on hospitalization, Ink in the Blood (2010).

Mantell, who had a playwright’s ear for dialogue, had always taken a theatrical approach to her writing. “I tend to hear it and see it,” she said.

Mantel never saw her father after the age of eleven, when her mother moved the family away with her new partner, Jack. “I was brought up to accept that I don’t have a father. It was a condition you had never had before, and you would never miss it,” she told The Irish Times in an interview in 2020 to think about fatherhood.

Mantel reads a lot of Irish authors. “John McGahern is probably the one who means the most to me, because I grew up in a farming family,” she told me. “Reading McGahern made me understand my family, perhaps more than any other writer, and I don’t appreciate him just for that.”

She wrote A Tribute to Ireland with The Giant O’Brien (1998), based on the true story of the Irish giant Charles Byrne. (Until she wrote Wolf Hall, these were her favorite novels.) “Byrne’s bones hang even today in a museum in London,” Mantell wrote in an article called “Modern British Novels.” “A horrific symbol that reminds us of how Ireland was cut up.”

The village where Mantell grew up had a large Irish Catholic community. “We were our own culture, and I was well aware of belonging to an Irish family . . . the English language was something that happened in the South, and it was a Protestant Anglo-Saxon build.”

“I always felt like I wasn’t really English, I felt like a northern writer,” says Mantell, until writing by Wolf Hall. “Departing from Europe seems very dangerous to me. I personally consider it very difficult, because . . . I have always known myself as a European writer. This is where I find my home.”

Mantel has spent the past year adapting The Mirror & the Light for theater and television. She was also exploring turning her short story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – about a fictional plot by an IRA gunman to kill the Prime Minister – into a play. Its publication in 2014 led to a backlash from conservatives, but Mantel is not one to shy away from controversy. “I already have a box full of stuff, scenes I wrote… so this [stage adaptation of The Mirror & the Light] It goes well, then I might have a crack in it.”

The one thing she wouldn’t deal with, she said, was “another huge historical novel. I started thinking, well, you’d better pick and choose, because time isn’t infinite.”

In her memoirs, she described the need to “write herself into being” every morning. “The day I refuse to get out of bed in the middle of the night to have an idea, I’m done, I wrote,” she told The Irish Times in 2020. – (Additional report: Reuters)