Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf - Critical Lives

Reaktion Books


Virginia Woolf was one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century, and when she died was perhaps the best-known woman novelist in the English-speaking world. Her distinctive writing style inspired a whole generation of writers while her moving novels, such as Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and Orlando remain hugely influential today. Featuring new details about Woolf’s homes and personal life, this engaging biography offers a fresh insight into her work, focusing on how place as much as imagination fashioned her writing, as well as how the context of her life shaped her her work and artistic ambitions.

Drawing on her letters, journals, diaries, essays and fiction, the book reveals Woolf’s response to her dwellings and surroundings, from the enclosed space of Hyde Park Gate to the open and free-spirited Bloomsbury of Gordon Square. Throughout the book Ira Nadel gives consideration to her technique as a novelist, the skills she learned from reading others, the experimental nature of her fiction and her concern with history, narrative, art and friendship. He discusses her role in the famous Bloomsbury group, her relationship with a series of other fascinating figures including Vita Sackville-West and Lady Ottoline Morrel, her attitude towards sex and marriage, her uncertain social and political views, and the toll of writing upon her state of mind: Woolf suffered from mental illness and breakdowns from a very young age, which eventually led her to commit suicide in 1941 at the age of 59. Accessible, concise yet comprehensive, Virginia Woolf will appeal to the many admirers of this highly influential yet troubled figure.

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About the Author

Ira Nadel

Educated at Rutgers and Cornell, Ira Nadel has concentrated on the Victorians and Moderns, while pursuing the critical and practical matters of biography. His research has led him to the island of Hydra for Leonard Cohen, back stage at the National Theatre, London for Tom Stoppard and into the archives at the Library of Congress for work on Philip Roth. In addition to these projects, he has published on Ezra Pound, James Joyce, David Foster Wallace and Virginia Woolf. He has also worked on three books with the San Francisco architect Donald MacDonald and continued his on-air interests in radio with, first, CBC Vancouver and now CITR on campus. He has lectured in England, France, Germany, Israel, China, Australia and, most recently, Korea. His awards include a Killam Research Prize, a Yale Beinecke Library Fellowship, a Dorot Fellowship at the Ransom Center of the University of Texas and, for 2016, a two month fellowship at the Australian National University, Canberra. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a UBC Distinguished University Scholar.

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