Hilary Mantel CBE

Booker Prize winner, Mantel speaks on campus

One of the country’s most distinguished living novelists, Hilary Mantel CBE will discuss the impulse to recover the past that lies behind her historical fiction, ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ at the University of Exeter on 29 October.

The talk is being given at the Streatham Campus, in the Forum’s Alumni Auditorium and is open to members of the public, students and staff.

As part of the University’s Arts and Culture Forum Lecture Series, Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith, will introduce Hilary Mantel’s talk ‘Vacant Possession: The Houses Where the Dead Live’.

The inspiration for the talk is a photograph of Hilary Mantel’s great-grandmother on the doorstep of a terraced house in a Derbyshire mill village. She was far from her birthplace in Ireland, and the photograph is the single image of her that remains. The photo was taken at the end of the nineteenth century, and by the 1950s the houses were demolished, but their frontages remained:  bricked-up windows, bricked-up doors, with nothing behind them. 

Hilary Mantel said: ‘My task, is unbricking the doorway: getting beyond that blank façade to the space behind, where our ancestors used to live.'

The talk will reflect on history, heritage and fiction, on memory and myth. In it Mantel will also consider how the barrier between the living and the dead is broken down in the imagination. The opportunity to find about more about Mantel’s writing process and what inspires elements of her work will follow the talk in the form of Questions and Answers, chaired by Professor Helen Taylor.

The University’s relationship with Hilary Mantel was strengthened in 2011, when Mantel was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate. She is currently a Visiting Professor in the College of Humanities.

Hilary Mantel CBE is an internationally renowned author of thirteen books covering an astonishing range of genres and themes.  She has won many prizes and honours for her work. Hilary Mantel’s most recent novels have confirmed her global reputation. ‘Wolf Hall’ was shortlisted for or won most prizes going: not only the Man Booker but also the inaugural Walter Scott Prize and the US National Book Critics Circle Award. ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, went one better, winning the 2012 Man Booker and the 2013 Costa Book Award, as well as being shortlisted for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Professor Taylor said:“Mantel’s literary output is the most brilliantly original and varied of any contemporary writer, and her capture of international literary prizes testifies to her pre-eminence in the field.” 

The talk ‘Vacant Possession: The Houses Where the Dead Live’ is at 7.30pm – 8.45pm Tuesday 29 October in the Alumni Auditorium, Forum, University of Exeter. Tickets are £5 (Students £3), tickets available from the Northcott Theatre Box Office 01392 493493.

Blackwell’s bookshop will be running a book signing after the talk, in the Forum Street with a selection of Hilary’s books on sale before and after the event.

Date: 26 October 2013

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