Tx 16 August at 9pm, BBC Four
This is the story of the British novel in the 20th century told by those who know it best – the authors themselves. Plundering the BBC archive, In Their Own Words, produced in partnership with The Open University, reveals Britain’s greatest novelists talking candidly about their life and work.
The full extent of this resource is surprising: it takes us from late Victorian writers like GK Chesteron, HG Wells and EM Forster through to Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter and Martin Amis. It includes the only recording of Virginia Woolf in existence, as well as surprising set-pieces: We see former teacher William Golding with the pupils who inspired Lord of the Flies; JG Ballard, author of Crash, celebrating the beauty of the motorcar; Doris Lessing putting Home Secretary Rab Butler in his place during a televised debate about the atom bomb.
Dr Delia Da Sousa Correa, Senior Lecturer in Literature and Academic Consultant to the series, said: “Hearing writers ‘in their own words’ over five decades brought home to me extremely vividly just what a tremendous range of different voices can be heard in the twentieth-century British novel, and how much those voices have changed. The series provides fascinating insights into what mattered to writers about the times in which they lived. Those 50 years saw a shift from colonial to postcolonial narratives and witnessed the greater inclusion of the voices of women, of the working classes and of the environment, all of urgent interest today.”
Viewers can explore the connections between authors by navigating their way through literary history on www.open2.net/intheirownwords. (It will go live immediately prior to transmission.) Some of our best loved writers and reviews of their works also feature in a free Open University booklet which is available online or by calling 0845 366 8022.
The BBC archive website is working with ‘British Novelists in Their Own Words' to create a new online collection to bring together the full versions of many of the interviews used in the series. Audiences will be able to watch extended interviews with the greats of modern literature, on-demand, in this permanent web resource, from the day the programme transmits by visiting www.bbc.co.uk/archive.