Friday, June 08, 2012

Barry Unsworth 1930-2012

This week has been one of loss: Ray Bradbury, a friend's father and now the Booker-winning writer Barry Unsworth.

He came to Liverpool in 2004 and gave a talk at the Maritime Museum during which he read a passage from Sacred Hunger to a small but transfixed audience. Hearing him read out a passage made me appreciate his writing even more. He was a thoroughly charming man and a great writer.

There is an excellent obituary in the New York Times. It ends with a quote from Barry Unsworth made two years after Margaret Thatcher left office about his book Sacred Hunger:
'As I wrote I began to see more strongly that there were inescapable analogies. You couldn’t really live through the ’80s without feeling how crass and distasteful some of the economic doctrines were. The slave trade is a perfect model for that kind of total devotion to the profit motive without reckoning the human consequences'
A perfect example of the motivation to write historical fiction - using the past to say something fresh and profound about the present.


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