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Shirley Hazzard part two

In their own words

Recorded 1976

Shirley Hazzard part two
Audio: 2 minutes

Before I left Italy at the end of 1957, I took some leave and made the trip in the autumn and early winter of that year, and I went to stay near Siena with an Italian family to whom I had an introduction, and the mother of that family was immensely kind to me. She had a villa there which was a rather dilapidated, lovely old house with a beautiful garden and just an hour’s walk from Siena.

And when I first began to write, which was, I think, in about 1960, I first began to write short stories. I felt very much that it was the release and beauty of that place that helped me to do so. I remember that I was going away from New York for the summer to go to this house in Italy, and I sent a short story to The New Yorker magazine, which was the magazine whose fiction I liked most, and I said ‘You don’t need to return it, if you reject it, you don’t need to return it as I’m going to Italy’. But I gave them my address in Italy. So I was staying in that house when one day an envelope arrived that was so small I knew they hadn’t returned the story, they had accepted it, which was certainly one of the most beautiful days of my life.

I write with a great deal of difficulty, going over things, not necessarily changing the substance but usually every word is changed before it’s finished, or rearranged, at least. And the story, first story that was accepted was a story that was set in that house and the origins of it were an incident that had happened in the house. It was about a young poet, and that was really derived from an incident that I’d seen in the house. And I’ve on very few occasions written so closely from an incident of that kind but that was from the house, so you might say that this very lovely place and these people, these really great, large-hearted people brought me luck.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Shirley Hazzard is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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Shirley Hazzard

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