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Author William Trevor, writer of elegance, dies at 88

Published 22/11/2016

Author William Trevor
Author William Trevor

The Irish president has led tributes to renowned novelist William Trevor, who has died aged 88.

Michael D Higgins described the playwright and short story specialist as a "writer of elegance".

The three time winner of the Whitbread Prize for fiction and multiple Booker Prize nominee was from Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

His first novel, A Standard Of Behaviour, was published in 1958 while he penned his last, Love And Summer, 50 years later.

In between he earned a reputation as a prolific writer, penning more than 30 works.

Trevor, who lived in Devon for many years, was awarded an honorary knighthood in 2002.

Although a novelist and accomplished playwright, it was as a short story writer that he built an unrivalled reputation.

He described himself as "a short-story writer who happens to write novels, not the other way around".

According to Graham Greene, his collection Angels at the Ritz, was "one of the best collections, if not the best since James Joyce's Dubliners".

"It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of William Trevor, the distinguished novelist, playwright, sculptor and former teacher," said President Higgins.

"The work of William Trevor was widely regarded by his peers and critics as being among the finest literary works produced in Ireland.

"He was a writer of elegance, with words and themes."

Sending his condolences, Mr Higgins said the writer's loss would be felt most keenly by his wife Jane and sons Patrick and Dominic.

He added: "But his death is also an immense loss to all readers who value the power of evocative words and the beauty of a story well told."

Trevor's 1992 Collected Stories ran to 1,250 pages, a 2010 updated edition was 600 pages longer, while subsequent stories ran in the New Yorker until the infirmities of old age ended his prodigious output.

Born as William Trevor Cox, he came relatively late to fiction, having first tried to make a living as a sculptor and then working as a copywriter at a London advertising agency.

Disliking this job, the modest Protestant began to write fiction, and the modest success of his award-winning novel, The Old Boys, in 1964 encouraged him to risk becoming a full-time writer.

His talent was obvious from the outset and the 1967 story collection, The Day We Got Drunk on Cake, immediately confirmed him as a master of the short form - the gleefully heartless title story drawing on his ad agency experiences.

Although voluntarily exiled, mainly in rural Devon with his wife Jane, he soon began writing about his native Ireland, in such classic stories as The Ballroom of Romance, An Evening with John Joe Dempsey, The Grass Widows and Teresa's Wedding.

As he grew older he tended more to the wry and elegiac, especially when evoking the disappearing communities of a changing, increasingly urbanised Ireland.

In 2015, Trevor was elected Saoi of Aosdána, an honour previously bestowed on writers such as Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.

Chair of the Irish Arts Council, Sheila Pratschke, said: "William Trevor was a writer of extraordinary gifts. A novelist, playwright and, perhaps most famously, a short story writer, Trevor was a true master of his craft, and has profoundly influenced a generation of writers, in Ireland and abroad. He was a writer of sensitivity, grace and insight, and leaves behind a deep legacy of work."

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