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William Trevor Among the Greats

December 6, 2016
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His short stories brought to life the intimacy and intensity of human relations

william-trevorWilliam Trevor, one of the world’s great short story writers, and among my favourites, died on November 20, 2016, at age 88.

Trevor lived in Devonshire, England, for much or his life, but he often visited his native Ireland as well as spending much time in Tuscany. All three settings form part of his literary landscapes in The Collected Stories (Penguin) and in his 13 novels and novellas.

The triple Whitbread Prize winner was a private man seldom allowing interviews and disinterested in literary circles. He was a teacher for a time, a sculptor for seven years, and an advertising copywriter before becoming an author. His second novel The Old Boys, published in 1964 launched him as a full-time writer.

He admired the stories of James Joyce and those of Somerset Maugham, among others, and set a course for himself that brought an equally keen ability to observe human behavior and transform it into short fiction.

In 1989, he told the Paris Review that he rejected the old adage that one should write about what one knows, preferring to write what he imagined.

He was a keen observer of human behavior with an ability to develop characters in detail and with compassion. He was not particularly political, but his characters occasionally stepped into those roles. Mostly he was a writer interested in ordinary people and their encounters with life’s foibles and predicaments.

We readers are the worse off for his passing and the better off for all that he has left behind.

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