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Hilary Mantel on how fiction changes when adapted for stage or screen. Each medium, she says, draws a different potential from the original. She argues that fiction, if written well, doesn't betray history, but enhances it. When fiction is turned into theatre, or into a film or TV, the same applies - as long as we understand that adaptation is not a secondary process or a set of grudging compromises, but an act of creation in itself. And this matters. "Without art, what have you to inform you about the past?" she asks. "What lies beyond is the unedited flicker of closed-circuit TV." The programme is recorded in Stratford-Upon-Avon in front of an audience, with a question and answer session, chaired by Sue Lawley. The producer is Jim Frank.
Can These Bones Live?
Hilary Mantel analyses how historical fiction can make the past come to life. She says her task is to take history out of the archive and relocate it in a body. "It's the novelist's job: to put the reader in the moment, even if the moment is 500 years ago." She takes apart the practical job of "resurrection", and the process that gets historical fiction on to the page. "The historian will always wonder why you left certain things out, while the literary critic will wonder why you left them in," she says. How then does she try and get the balance right? The lecture is recorded in front of an audience in Exeter, near Mantel's adopted home in East Devon, followed by a question and answer session. The Reith Lectures are chaired by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.
Silence Grips the Town
The story of how an obsessive relationship with history killed the young Polish writer Stanislawa Przybyszewska, told by best-selling author, Hilary Mantel. The brilliant Przybyszewska wrote gargantuan plays and novels about the French Revolution, in particular about the revolutionary leader Robespierre. She lived in self-willed poverty and isolation and died unknown in 1934. But her work, so painfully achieved, did survive her. Was her sacrifice worthwhile? "She embodied the past until her body ceased to be," Dame Hilary says. "Multiple causes of death were recorded, but actually she died of Robespierre." Over the course of these five lectures, she discusses the role that history plays in our lives. How do we view the past, she asks, and what is our relationship with the dead? The lecture is recorded before an audience in the ancient Vleeshuis in Antwerp, a city which features in Mantel's novels about Thomas Cromwell and the cosmopolitan world of the early Tudors. The lecture is followed by a question and answer session chaired by Sue Lawley. The producer is Jim Frank.
The Iron Maiden
How do we construct our pictures of the past, including both truth and myth, asks best-selling author Hilary Mantel. Where do we get our evidence? She warns of two familiar errors: either romanticising the past, or seeing it as a gory horror-show. It is tempting, but often condescending, to seek modern parallels for historical events. "Are we looking into the past, or looking into a mirror?" she asks. "Dead strangers...did not live and die so we could draw lessons from them." Above all, she says, we must all try to respect the past amid all its strangeness and complexity. Over the course of the lecture series, Dame Hilary discusses the role that history plays in our culture. She asks how we view the past and what our relationship is with the dead. The programme is recorded in front of an audience at Middle Temple in London, followed by a question and answer session. The Reith Lectures are chaired by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.
The Day Is for the Living
Art can bring the dead back to life, argues the best-selling novelist Hilary Mantel, starting with the story of her own great-grandmother. "We sense the dead have a vital force still," she says. "They have something to tell us, something we need to understand. Using fiction and drama, we try to gain that understanding." She describes how and why she began to write fiction about the past, and how her view of her trade has evolved. We cannot hear or see the past, she says, but "we can listen and look". Over this series of five lectures, Dame Hilary discusses the role that history plays in our culture. How can we understand the past, she asks, and how can we convey its nature today? Above all, she believes, we must all try to respect the past amid all its strangeness and complexity. The lecture is recorded in front of an audience at Halle St Peter's in Manchester, and is followed by a question and answer session chaired by Sue Lawley. The producer is Jim Frank.