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Tom Stoppard

A Life

Hermione Lee



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Faber & Faber
01 December 2020
In this gripping narrative, Hermione Lee builds a unique portrait of one of our greatest playwrights. Her biography is remarkable for its unprecedented access to private papers, diaries and letters, and for the countless interviews it draws on. Meticulously researched, it tracks its subject from his Czech origins and childhood in India to every school and home he's ever lived in, every piece of writing he's ever done, and every play and film he's ever worked on. It tells the whole story, from his family's wartime escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, to his English upbringing and lifelong love of his adopted country. It vividly evokes his youth as a Bristol reporter and would-be playwright and his dramatic leap to fame in the 1960s with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It follows a life of amazing energy and activity, involving three marriages and four children, alongside constant writing, casting, rehearsing, lecture tours, interviews, first nights and transatlantic travel. It looks at the complexities of his political involvements, from his reputation for conservatism and disengagement, to his long years of work on behalf of Eastern Europe, Soviet prisoners of conscience , PEN and the Free Belarus Theatre, and his close friendship with the playwright, dissident, and Czech President Vaclav Havel. It describes a career spanning over five decades, right up to his new, movingly personal play Leopoldstadt, opening in 2020, soon before the publication of this book.

Lee's biography is full of Stoppard's voice, humour and thoughts about life: there's a Stoppard joke on almost every page. It observes him in rehearsal, looks at the changes he makes to his classic plays over many years, and makes brilliant close readings of his best, and least, known work for stage, screen and radio.

Well over 100 people have been interviewed, including names from the theatrical, movie, music and literary worlds such as Felicity Kendal, Trevor Nunn, Diana Rigg, John Boorman, Richard Eyre, Sonia Friedman, Michael Kitchen, Simon Russell Beale, Tim Rice, Steven Spielberg, and David Cornwell (alias John le Carre). It draws on several years of long, exploratory conversations with Stoppard himself. But in the end this is the story of a complex, elusive and private man, which tells you an enormous amount about him but leaves you, also, with the fascinating mystery of his ultimate unknowability.
By:   Hermione Lee
Imprint:   Faber & Faber
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 242mm,  Width: 166mm,  Spine: 45mm
Weight:   1.330kg
ISBN:   9780571314430
ISBN 10:   0571314430
Pages:   992
Publication Date:   01 December 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Hermione Lee was President of Wolfson College from 2008 to 2017 and is Emeritus Professor of English Literature in the English Faculty at Oxford University. She is a biographer and critic whose work includes biographies of Virginia Woolf (1996), Edith Wharton (2006) and Penelope Fitzgerald (2013, winner of the 2014 James Tait Black Prize for Biography and one of the New York Times best 10 books of 2014). She has also written books on Elizabeth Bowen, Philip Roth and Willa Cather, Biography: A Very Short Introduction for OUP, and a collection of essays on life-writing, Body Parts. She was awarded the Biographers' Club Prize for Exceptional Contribution to Biography in 2018. From 1998 to 2008 she was the Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at Oxford. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature, and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2003 she was made a CBE and in 2013 she was made a Dame for services to literary scholarship.

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