On Thursday 16 November, Antonia Susan Byatt, a writer and literary critic, died aged 87. She visited the HeadRead festival in Tallinn in 2014. Her most famous novel Possession, which won the Booker Prize in 1990, has been translated into Estonian. Byatt’s knowledge of literature was admired by all her contemporaries, she was widely considered an expert critic and it can be said that she implemented this expertise and profound sophistication in her novel Possession. However, this book is much more than a firework display of erudition; it is witty, human, inventive and demonstrates the author’s skill in various genres. She has created pages upon pages of fictional diaries, 19th-century poetry and depicted British academic life in the 1980s with equal credibility.
Her most recent book, The Children’s Book, has not been translated into Estonian. A large volume set in Great Britan and United States before the Great War, it features many historic characters. Her latest novel is said to be about scientists but is yet to be published.
The books of A.S. Byatt are memorable and she was memorable as a person. I am deeply grateful that we had the chance to see and listen to her at the HeadRead festival. I would like to conclude with a quote from her, ‘In England, everyone believes if you think, then you don’t feel. But all my novels are about joining together thinking and feeling.’
A.S. Byatt and Krista Kaer at the HeadRead literary festival in Tallinn in 2014.