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This interview is taken from PN Review 77, Volume 17 Number 3, January - February 1991.

A.S. Byatt in conversation Nicolas Tredell
A.S. Byatt in Conversation


Nicolas Tredell: With its romance form and its partly Victorian setting, your latest novel, Possession, clearly differs in significant ways from your earlier fiction . How did Possession come about?

A.S. Byatt: It came about really because I had the idea for the title. I'm putting together this collection of my essays, and the chap who was helping me discovered a review I did in 1974 of a book of essays by John Beer, and it said: 'I often think of writing a novel called Possession'.
 I'd had the idea when I was working on Coleridge in the British Library, and there was Kathleen Coburn working on him, and it came to me that possession worked both ways - she thought Coleridge's thoughts and his thoughts were entirely mediated by her. Then much later I got the ideas of the spiritualist mediums, possession in that sense, and sexual possession, if you had two poets rather than one, and economic possession. So, in a sense, it began quite differently from the other novels I've written. With, as it were, almost a witty concept, an idea. The people grew out of the idea and out of a sort of passion I had for Victorian poetry. And the modern characters are very secondary to the interest in the 19th century.

That sense of belatedness, of the modern characters as pale shadows compared ...

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