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Great Norfolk Writers Past and Present

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Britain has no shortage of famous literary figures coming from almost every corner of the country; Yorkshire has the Bronte’s, Scotland has Arthur Conan Doyle, Wales has Dylan Thomas - So what world famous writers can East Anglia lay claim to?
(Photo credit: Julian of Norwich by Matt Brown)

East Anglia’s literary tradition

In May 2012 Norwich was awarded the title City of Literature by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) - no small achievement since up until then only 6 other cities had received the honour (Reykjavik, Krakow, Iowa City, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Dublin).

In actual fact this shouldn’t really be surprising as the region has been associated with literature as far back as the 13th century, with Norwich being the home of Julian of Norwich, credited with being the first woman to have her book, “The Revelations of Divine Love”, published in the English language (Quite possibly not the first woman to write a book - but we’ll never know, will we).

Another strong literary connection is through the University of East Anglia (UEA) where, in 1970, Sir Malcom Bradbury was instrumental in starting a creative writing course which world famous authors such as Ian McEwan and Kazou Ishiguro learnt their craft.

The importance of books in East Anglia continues to this day with Norfolk’s libraries still being highly valued, with Norwich’s Millennium Library having been voted the UK’s most popular for seven years in a row between 2006 and 2013 and still appearing in lists of the best libraries to this day reportedly receiving 2.5 million visitors a year!

Writers with connections to Norfolk

Plenty of creative people choose to spend time in East Anglia, some end up making it their home (Read our interview with Mark Ollett to see what makes Norfolk so attractive for wildlife photographers).

Starting with one of the most famous, Anna Sewell (author of Black Beauty) was actually a native of the region, being born in Gt Yarmouth in 1820 and writing the novel in a suburb of Norwich called Old Catton in the 1870’s.

Her tale following the turbulent life of a beautiful (the clue’s in the title) black stallion has been a touchstone story for generations of young girls since it was first published in 1877 and is one of the best selling books of all time.

Another famous author from yesterday-year with links to Norfolk was Enid Blyton who spent time living at Seckford Hall near Woodbridge - she also trained as a teacher in Ipswich!

Two of the most interesting writers who are still writing books with connections to Norfolk are Philip Pullman and Sarah Perry - both of whom have included the Norfolk landscape in their writing.

Philip Pullman shot to fame in 1995 with his controversial trilogy of books for children, His Dark Materials which features the Norfolk fens (albeit in a parallel universe!) inhabited by mysterious water-faring travellers.

Sarah Perry actually lives in Norwich and, although only having had three books published to date has already won Waterstone’s Book of the Year for her second book The Essex Serpent in 2016 (Although it was her first book, After Me Comes The Flood, that featured the Norfolk landscape).

Are there any great Norfolk writers we should’ve mentioned?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on Norfolk's connections with Literature?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

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By Alastair Baker at 2 Jul 2019, 00:00 AM