|14 Oct 2020|
Hermione Lee builds a meticulously researched portrait of one of the greatest living playwrights as she draws on hundreds of interviews with family, friends and long conversations with Stoppard himself, giving a rare opportunity to hear from one of the greatest playwrights of our time as he talks about his Czech origins and childhood, his fascinating life and career in theatre.
Tom Stoppard grew up in Singapore and India during the Second World War and moved to England in 1946 with his mother and stepfather, his own father having been killed in Singapore. A pupil at Pocklington School from 1951-54, Sir Tom was awarded a special prize for ‘Use of English’ at Prizegiving in 1954, before he left to start work as a journalist and then moving on to London in 1960 to begin his career as a playwright.
Stoppard has written prolifically for television, radio, film and stage. Known as his breakthrough play, ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ (1964-65), showed at the 1966 Edinburgh Festival to rave reviews. It became internationally known in 1967 after it was entered into the National Theatre. Other plays of distinction are ‘The Real Thing’ (1982) and ‘Arcadia’(1993), to name but a few from his extensive portfolio.
He has been a key playwright of the National Theatre and is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation. Themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom pervade his work along with exploration of linguistics and philosophy. His renowned genre led to the adjective ‘stoppardian’ entering the Oxford English Dictionary in 1978 – used to describe plays pertaining to or in the style of Tom Stoppard.
The account and analysis of Stoppard’s life’s work in Lee’s biography, helps to identify the emotions that drive so much of his work but Hermione Lee admits in her synopsis ‘...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’.(Faber website)
The book was published on 1 October 2020 by Faber and is available to purchase from Hive, Foyles, Waterstone’s, Amazon and Blackwells and other good bookstores.
The book is also featured on BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000n47f