Carmen Callil on Sylvia Townsend Warner
Posted by the Bookshop
Carmen Callil, the founder of Virago Press, reflects on her relationship with Sylvia Townsend Warner's work:
I started reading Sylvia Townsend Warner in 1976, forty years ago. And have read her constantly ever since. She was my second choice for the Virago Modern Classics list, and she only came second to Antonia White’s Frost in May because I wanted to publish two of her wonderful novels, not one. It was the biographer Michael Holroyd who told me to publish her: he loved Mr Fortune’s Maggot (as did I) and I loved The True Heart. We went on to re-publish all of them. My absolute favourite is The Flint Anchor, set in Suffolk, but with Sylvia Townsend Warner you will find yourself all over the world. Every novel she wrote was entirely different from its predecessor, in subject and story, in period and place. You will find yourself in Paris, in Rome, in the middle Ages, in the South Seas.
Unputdownable is the only word to describe her work, not a word she would have used herself, but it describes the love one comes to have for her work. Always she writes like an angel: she is diverting, funny, absorbing, clever, surprising. Her short stories and her poetry were jewels too. Read everything she wrote and have a most happy life.