Friday, March 23, 2007

A S Byatt and Possession

A. S. Byatt’s Booker Prize winning book, Possession, is a fascinating novel published in 1990 and it was transformed in 2002 into a film.

The story is about two scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. From the discovery of letters they work like literary Sherlock Holmes, unearthing details about the love that developed between the Victorians and becoming entwined with each other in the process.

In an insightful article on the book’s origins and title Byatt said the idea came to her in the sixties. She writes, “I thought of it in the British Library, watching that great Coleridge scholar, Kathleen Coburn, circumambulating the catalogue. I thought: she has given all her life to his thoughts, and then I thought: she has mediated his thoughts to me. And then I thought ‘Does he possess her, or does she possess him? There could be a novel called Possession about the relations between living and dead minds.’

‘Does he possess her, or does she possess him?’ This is a good question to be asked.

Geoff Pound

Image: Possession, the book.