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Barry Unsworth Biography

(1930– ), The Partnership, The Greeks Have a Word For It, The Hide, Mooncranker's Gift

university historical treatment fiction

British novelist, born in Durham, educated at Manchester University. Since the early 1960s he has lived in Greece, Turkey, Finland, and Italy, dividing his time between university lecturing and writing. His first novel, The Partnership (1966), deals with the pretensions of an artists' colony in Cornwall; subsequent earlier works include The Greeks Have a Word For It (1967), which reflects his experiences in Athens, The Hide (1970), a treatment of betrayal anticipating the moral dynamics of his later work, and Mooncranker's Gift (1973), in which a historical dimension becomes integral to his fiction. Pascali's Island (1980) and The Rage of the Vulture (1982), which centre on the collapse of the Ottoman Sultanate, establish Unsworth's abiding concern with the theme of empire. Ethical expediency and economic power in the Venetian Republic are dealt with in Stone Virgin (1985), while the history of slavery underlies the treatment of depressed contemporary Liverpool in Sugar and Rum (1990). Sacred Hunger (1992), joint winner of the Booker Prize, brought the great imaginative scope and moral authority of Unsworth's historical fiction to wider notice through its harrowing narrative of the eighteenth-century British slave trade. Set in fourteenth-century England, Morality Play (1995) uses the re-enactment of a murder by a group of players to present a fable of art's relations with truth.

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