In Brigitta Olubas’s Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life, the extraordinary life of the award-winning writer of The Transit of Venus is captured in full for the first time. The Center for Fiction was thrilled to welcome Olubas to the stage to celebrate a quintessential biography about a timeless, remarkable author. In Olubas’s thorough and artful chronicle, she draws on Hazzard’s fiction—which itself drew on her lived experiences—as well as her extensive archive of letters, diaries, and notebooks, and on memories of her surviving friends and family, to create this vibrant portrait of an exceptional woman. Sheridan Hay, writer of The Secret of Lost Things and leader of The Center for Fiction’s Shirley Hazzard reading groups, joined Olubas for a rich conversation on Hazzard’s extraordinary life and work.
Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life
By Brigitta Olubas
Published by FSG
In Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life, the extraordinary life of the award-winning writer is captured in full for the first time. Brigitta Olubas, Hazzard’s authorized biographer, draws on Hazzard’s fiction—which itself drew on her lived experiences—as well as her extensive archive of letters, diaries, and notebooks, and on memories of her surviving friends and family, to create this vibrant portrait of an exceptional woman.
This biography attends to the distinctive times of Hazzard’s life, from youth and middle age to her long widowhood, dementia, and death, and it traces the complex and intricate processes of self-fashioning that lay beneath it all. Olubas also presents a history of the sites of Hazzard’s life, those described in her characteristic, lyrical evocations of place: her childhood in Depression-era Sydney; her youth in postwar Hong Kong, New Zealand, and London; her years in literary New York in the 1950s—at the United Nations and the New Yorker—and her time in postwar Naples and Capri. At last, Hazzard’s life, as seen through her own writing, stories, and archival photographs, is set down on the page, and it completes and deepens our understanding of her fiction.
As Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times: “Hazzard’s stories feel timeless because she understands, as she writes in one of them: ‘We are human beings, not rational ones.’” Here, in Shirley Hazzard, is the story of a remarkable human being.
Brigitta Olubas is a professor of English at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She published the first scholarly monograph of Shirley Hazzard’s writing and recently edited two volumes of Shirley Hazzard’s work: We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays and Collected Stories.
Photo Credit: Amanda J. Hunt
Sheridan Hay holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her first novel, The Secret of Lost Things (Doubleday/Anchor), which features a lost novel by Herman Melville, was a Booksense Pick, a Barnes and Noble Discover selection, shortlisted for the Borders Original Voices Fiction Prize, and nominated for the International Impac Award. A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and a New York Times Editor’s Choice, foreign rights have been sold in fourteen countries. Along with the Shirley Hazzard reading groups, Sheridan has led The Center’s Moby-Dick reading group many times, as well as leading the popular Henry James reading groups.