Australian author Shirley Hazzard dies

Australian author Shirley Hazzard dies

Shirley Hazzard, the author of The Transit of Venus, has died at the age of 85.

Hazzard died at home in Manhattan, New York, on Monday (12th December), according to the New York Times. The death was confirmed by the author’s friend Annabel David-Goff, who said Hazzard had been suffering from dementia.

The writer was born in Sydney in 1931, although she left Australia in 1947 and lived in Hong Kong, Italy and New Zealand before settling in New York, where she worked for a number of years for the United Nations.

Cliffs of Fall, her first collection of stories, was published in 1963, and Hazzard published four novels and another collection over the course of her career. Her third novel, The Transit of Venus, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1980 and was published by Virago in the UK.  

Hazzard also published five non-fiction titles, including two books about the United Nations and a memoir about her friendship with the author Graham Greene.

Lennie Goodings, publisher at Virago, paid tribute to the "elegant and articulate, generous and funny" Hazzard in a message shared with staff:  

"Shirley Hazzard, one of Virago’s greatest writers, died today in New York.  She was 85 and had been ill for some time. Though born in Australia in 1931 she was a truly worldly woman who lived in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Italy and latterly, New York. By her own account she was a precocious girl with a `head full of poetry’ who drew on her extraordinary life and loves to create her fiction.  
 
"She came into Virago’s life as a Virago Modern Classic in 1995 with The Transit of Venus, the novel the New York Times Book Review called ` a dose of the sublime’ – and that is no exaggeration.  This is a beautiful and tragic novel about two Australian girls coming to post-war England. In 2000 we published her truly brilliant short book about her friendship with Graham Greene, Greene on Capri which was followed by the novel I love, The Great Fire. Twenty years in the writing, it is an intense and deeply moving novel set in war-torn Asia about the redemptive power of love. It was hailed by the likes of Michael Cunningham, Colm Toibin, Joan Didion and went on to be shortlisted for The Orange Prize in the UK and to win American National Book Award and The Miles Franklin Award in Australia.
 
"Elegant and articulate, generous and funny, Shirley was a wonderful companion: full of ideas, eager to talk books, passions, politics and about life with a capital L. We will miss her very much."

Justin Ractliffe, joint m.d. of Hachette Australia, told the Guardian his company was “deeply saddened” by the news. “Shirley was a giant talent who produced a small, but perfectly formed, body of work. She continues to be beloved in Australia as well as around the world and will be missed by the many readers moved by her extraordinary writing.”

Several people in the publishing industry have paid tribute to Hazzard on Twitter. Mark Richards, publisher at John Murray, said he was “very sad” to hear of her death, adding: “The Transit of Venus is one of the best novels in English. Can't recommend it highly enough.”

Nick Lake, fiction publishing director at HarperCollins Children’s, said The Transit of Venus was “truly a masterpiece”.