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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Passing through to greatness

I like the condition of being an outsider in writing, just passing through.” – Barry Unsworth
Unsworth was an English writer known for his historical fiction. He published 17 novels, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize three times, winning once for Sacred Hunger. Born on this date in 1930, Unsworth did not start to write historical fiction until his sixth novel, Pascali's Island, the first of his Booker Prize nominees. 

While he told great yarns, he was sometimes criticized for his “poetic license” with the subjects he chose to write about, but he said it was all about the story and not the actual history that he was choosing for his focus.  “I’m not a biographer,” he said.  “I’m a novelist.”

One of his best, obviously, was Sacred Hunger, which was a wrenching tale about the 1770s slave trade.  An equally dynamic sequel, The Quality of Mercy, was his last book, published shortly before his death in 2012.                                       .

“Writers of historical fiction are not under the same obligation as historians to find evidence for the statements they make,” Unsworth said.   “I believe, for us it is sufficient if what we say can't be disproved or shown to be false.”

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