Australian author Shirley Hazzard, last seen in public in September 2003, was apparently disturbed by her growing body Suffering from frailty and dementia-induced insanity, she surprised the audience with a surprising set of short comments. “In recent years, I’ve felt more and more,” she began, “that the world now has a Vesuvius element and that we’re waiting for something terrible to happen.” Hazzard died in 2016, but I admit I wonder how she would feel about our precarious present, the increasingly inescapable sense that, if there is a future, chaos will be the prevailing mode.
she The comments that night were an unexpected reminder of her once sharp, deep political mind. It’s also surprising that Hazzard is leaning forward, looking into the future, an aspect of time that’s often absent from her novels, which are deeply rooted in and accompanied by feelings and events of lost time. In her novel, Hazzard demonstrates an uncanny ability to dissect the ways in which people are bound, even frozen, by their past. As Svetlana Boym writes, nostalgia was originally understood not as an emotional longing but as a medical pain that alienated patients from the present. In Hazzard’s second novel, Noon Bay of 1970, a character declares that they believe that ” When people say of their tragedy, ‘I don’t think about it very often now,’ they mean it has entered their minds permanently and colored everything.” In the face of our nostalgia for Hazzard, It is to look squarely at ourselves—to ask whether it is possible to declare peace with the most inassimilable fact of our history.
We recently found ourselves in Hazard’s renaissance. Although she was a lifetime bestseller and a noted public intellectual—not to mention winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award (for her masterpiece Transit of Venus ) and National Book Awards (in 2003, for The Great Fire ) – Hazard has gone out of style in recent years. (Lauren Groff suggests that this cultural amnesia may be due, at least in part, to the relatively small number of her published works and the long intervals between her major works.) In her Collected Stories at 2021 and a reissue of the acclaimed Transit at , However, this year marks the publication of the milestone of Brigitta Olubas’ meticulous biography (book one), Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life . Life there, like that in Hazzard’s vivid, dramatic novels, is a window into a cosmopolitan, cinematic world that no longer exists.
Hazzard was born in Sydney but traveled widely, living between Manhattan and Naples for most of her life. She was married for thirty years to Frances Stigmiller, respected biographer of Flaubert, Maupassant, Cocteau, and Isadora Duncan, and the pair were married to Muriel Spark, Graham Green, Doris Lessing, Patrick White and countless other celebrities have close contacts. She has a broad, self-inventing intellect and is a brilliant and engaging speaker. The poet Edward Hirsch called her “the most cultivated person” he had ever met; Alec Wilkinson said of Hazzard that, most of the time, just being in her presence seemed profound , and “you better shut up and listen.” Olubas fleshes out and complicates our sense of Hazzard, giving her chronology a tactile, grainy feel without sacrificing the timeless appeal of her story.