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ANTONIA BYATT

Dame Antonia Byatt
A S Byatt is internationally known for her novels and short stories.  Her novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer's Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, Elementals and her most recent book Little Black Book of Stories. A distinguished critic as well as a writer of fiction, A S Byatt was appointed CBE (Commander of Oder of the British Empire) in 1990 and DBE (Dame Commander of Order of the British Empire) in 1999.

Dame Antonia Byatt's statement:
"I cannot really remember a time when I did not know Andersen's characters and inhabit Andersen's world. They were read to me before I could read and I read them as soon as I could read. My imaginative life was inhabited by the Little Mermaid, the Snow Queen, Thumbelina and the Emperor Who had No Clothes. Andersen's characters have the power and presence of the characters of true folk tales - although in general I believe, with the Grimms, that folklore is connected to primitive religious beliefs, and Andersen was very Christian. When I was working on the Grimms and asked everyone I met which was the first fairy tale they could remember, they usually cited the little Mermaid or the Snow Queen. Andersen knew how to recreate the world of the true tales. But he did something else - there is an authorial presence in both the beauty of the imaginary world, and in the fact that the characters have inner lives - unlike Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. And because of this, and because of his own dark imagination, he made my first experiences of literary terror. The Mermaid, dumb and walking on knives. Kay with the splinter of glassy ice in his heart - these were agonising in a way Cinderella wasn't. As a little girl I was angry with him for making me suffer. I thought he was pushing my mind around. In fact he was turning me into a writer."