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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

'Writing narratives of adventure . . . and vision'


“It may seem unfashionable to say so, but historians should seize the imagination as well as the intellect. History is, in a sense, a story, a narrative of adventure and of vision, of character and of incident. It is also a portrait of the great general drama of the human spirit.” – Peter Ackroyd

Born on Oct. 5, 1949 Ackroyd is an English biographer, novelist and critic noted for the depth and clarity of his writing.   While he has written terrific biographical pieces on such luminaries as William Blake, Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot, it's his historical novels that have earned him most acclaim, including the Somerset Maugham Award and two Whitbread Awards.

His 1982 novel The Great Fire of London, a reworking of Dickens’ Little Dorrit, first put Ackroyd on the writing map and set the stage for his long sequence of novels dealing with the complex interaction of time and space -- what he refers to as "the spirit of place.”  

 Although he was a late arrival into the writing world, he has now penned nearly 70 books -- the latest being this year's The English Actor: From Medieval to Modern -- and four collections of poetry.
“I don’t think I ever read a novel until I was 26 or 27,” he said.  “I wanted to be a poet … (and) had no interest in fiction or biography and precious little interest in history.  But those three elements in my life have become the most important.”  

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