Mantel to give Reith Lectures on historical fiction

Mantel to give Reith Lectures on historical fiction

Dame Hilary Mantel is to give a series of lectures around the UK which will be broadcast by BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.

As part of the BBC's flagship series The Reith Lectures, Mantel will deliver five talks titled "Resurrection: The Art and Craft". They will see Mantel ask questions about the legitimacy and usefulness of historical fiction, examine the role of research, and explore how a writer might serve the recorded facts, whilst "giving breathing space to the imagination". Her lectures will seek to address how a writer might deal with the gaps and erasures of history and whether there is a kind of truth only fiction can tell.

The first of Mantel's five lectures, exploring the trade of historical fiction, will be recorded this evening (22nd May) at Halle’s St Peters in Manchester.

Mantel said: “Facts and alternative facts, truth and verisimilitude, knowledge and information, art and lies: what could be more timely or topical than to discuss where the boundaries lie? Is there a firm divide between myth and history, fiction and fact: or do we move back and forth on a line between, our position indeterminate and always shifting? In my lectures I shall explore historical fiction both as art and craft, and try to say how, as a working writer, I deal with the theoretical and practical challenges of the form.

“It is apt for me to open the series in Manchester, as well as a pleasure to revisit a city that is almost home ground: I grew up on the fringe of the Peak District as a child of a mill-working family. In the first lecture I will talk about what I know of their Irish roots, and introduce the figure of my great-grandmother, who - though she could not read or write - helped me construct my own identity as someone who reverences the past.”

Mantel will record her five lectures around the UK and in Belgium starting at Halle’s St Peters in Manchester (22nd May), followed by Middle Temple in London (30th May), The Vleehuis in Antwerp (1st June), The University of Exeter (6th June) and finishing at The Art House in Stratford-Upon-Avon (13th June). The Reith Lectures will be introduced and chaired by Sue Lawley.

Gwyneth Williams, controller of BBC Radio 4, said: “The Reith Lectures are always a high point in Radio 4's year as we engage with some of the most significant thinkers and ideas of our times. But this year I can promise you even more. Hilary Mantel's language, as she explores her art of bringing the dead from the past to life through fiction, is lyrical and utterly seductive. Her lectures will be a treat for us all.”

The 2017 Reith Lectures: Resurrection: The Art and Craft by Hilary Mantel will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service over five weeks from Tuesday 13 June at 9am. The lectures will be available as podcasts and there will be accompanying content on the Radio 4 website.