W&N pre-empts Patricia Highsmith's diaries 26 years after discovery

W&N pre-empts Patricia Highsmith's diaries 26 years after discovery

Weidenfeld & Nicolson (W&N) has pre-empted Patricia Highsmith’s diaries, to be unveiled to the public for the first time as part of a global publication more than 25 years after they were discovered buried among the author’s bed linens and towels. 

Lettice Franklin, publishing director, signed UK and Commonwealth rights to Diaries and Notebooks from the Swiss-based publisher Diogenes Verlag, which controls the Highsmith estate. Back in 2019, The Bookseller revealed "great interest" in the diaries in the UK following the sale of North American rights to Liveright Publishing, an imprint of W W Norton.

W&N will publish Diaries and Notebooks simultaneously with Liveright Publishing, marking the centenary of Highsmith’s death. The 995-book will be published in hardback, e-book and audio on 16th November and then subsequently released into paperback on the W&N Essentials list.  

The diaries and notebooks were posthumously discovered behind Highsmith’s bed linens and towels in her home in Switzerland in 1995, and cover more than six decades. "They have been culled from more than 8,000 pages and 56 thick spiral notebooks by her editor Anna von Planta," W&N said. "The result is one of the most compulsively readable literary diaries to publish in generations and an unparalleled insight into one of the 20th century’s most iconic, complex, fascinating minds."

Presented for the first time, this one-volume assemblage of Highsmith’s diaries and notebooks “offer unrivalled insight into the life and mind of an author whose novels—including The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train—marked the apotheosis of the psychological thriller, and a trailblazer who wrote one of the first mainstream novels depicting two women in love, The Price of Salt, later adapted into the 2015 film ‘Carol’,” W&N said. 

The diaries and notebooks span Highsmith’s adult life, reflecting on her tumultuous romantic relationships, her social circles—which included John Gielgud, Truman Capote and W H Auden among others—her world travel and fascination for expat life as well as her literary ambitions “that often came at huge personal sacrifice,” W&N said. “In her skewering of McCarthy-era America, her prickly disparagement of contemporary art, her fixation on love and writing, and ever-percolating prejudices, the famously secretive Highsmith reveals the roots of her psychological angst and acuity.” 

Franklin said: “It is an almost unimaginable thrill and honour to be bringing Patricia Highsmith’s never-before-published notebooks and diaries to the W&N list, and to the reading public. Hers is one of the most extraordinary, complicated, fascinating minds and [one of the] most extraordinary literary oeuvres of the last century.  

“Her diaries offer an unparalleled, unforgettable insight into her life and thoughts, whether about good and evil, loneliness and intimacy, sexuality and sacrifice, or love and murder; ‘Murder is a kind of making love, a kind of possessing’, she writes in one entry. The diaries offer all the pleasures of her extraordinary novels—her dazzling prose, her psychological acuity, her storytelling and her style—and I know they will be treasured by her many, many readers.” 

Von Planta commented: “What amazed and touched me most when delving into the diaries and notebooks was to discover the raw and unrestrained voice of the young Pat: self-conscious in her early notebooks, in which she hatched her first stories; often gushing in her diaries, which tell of frequent heartbreak, difficult choices, hard-won professional triumphs and a furiously fast-paced social life. It was to witness the painful becoming of Patricia Highsmith.” 

Since 2013, Virago Modern Classics has been Highsmith’s primary publisher in the UK, publishing all her fiction in e-book, the majority of her titles in paperback and hardback, plus many in audiobook.