Biographer and Irish Times journalist Fintan O'Toole is to research and write an authorised life of poet Seamus Heaney, Faber & Faber and the Seamus Heaney Estate have announced.
The deal, for world rights, was done between Natasha Fairweather at RCW and Faber's poetry editor Matthew Hollis. FSG will publish the book in the US. The publication date has not yet been scheduled.
O'Toole will be "engaging in years of original research, interlacing archive, oral and literary work, and correspondence to create a portrait of, in his words, ‘the personal, the political and the poetic'", the publisher said.
Heaney's son Michael Heaney said the family, and Seamus himself, had admired O'Tooles work and looked forward to helping him with the book.
Nobel Laureate Heaney died in 2013.
O'Toole commented: "James Joyce said that 'the supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring'. Seamus Heaney's work touches people so profoundly because it seems to spring from a very deep life indeed, from complex political and historical roots and from an extraordinary reservoir of memory, hope and humanity. It has been a great companion to me for many decades. I am very honoured to have the opportunity to try, not just to bring that work to life but to bring Seamus's life back in touch with his luminous work.'
Hollis added: "Seamus Heaney was the head of our poetry household; the story of his literary life will be of real importance to us all. We are therefore thrilled that it should be Fintan O'Toole who has agreed to undertake a portrait of this most cherished author. Fintan himself is a writer of principle and distinction, and a researcher of tireless fortitude. He will tell the story of Seamus's life and the great development of his art using original interviews, archive research and his uncanny instinct for reaching the true heart of any story. His life of Seamus Heaney promises to be a major portrait of the poet, of the man and of our times.'
O'Toole's many books include Judging Shaw (Prism), on George Bernard Shaw, and Ship of Fools (Faber), a study of Ireland's economic fortunes.