Annal: 1997 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 1997.

Book:W.B. Yeats: The Apprenice Mage

W.B. Yeats: A Life: Volume 1. The Apprentice Mage, 1865-1914

R.F. Foster

William Butler Yeats has cast his long shadow over the history of both modern poetry and modern Ireland for so long that his preeminence is taken for granted. Now, in the first authorized biography of Yeats to appear in over fifty years, leading Irish historian R.F. Foster travels beyond Yeats’s towering image as arguably the century’s greatest poet to restore a real sense of Yeats’s extraordinary life as Yeats himself experienced it—what he saw, what he did, the passions and the petty squabbles that consumed him, and his alchemical ability to transmute the events of his crowded and contradictory life into enduring art.

In the first volume of this long-awaited biography, Foster covers the poet’s first fifty years, bringing new light to bear on Yeats’s heroic and often ruthless efforts to invent himself as a poet and public figure. Drawn from a fascinating archive of personal and contemporary documents with the cooperation of surviving members of the Yeats family, it dramatically alters long-held…[more]

Book:Che Guevara

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

Jon Lee Anderson

After World War II, as the postcolonial world exploded in independence movements and armed insurrections, there emerged a handsome, dashing champion of the poor and dispossessed, an Argentine doctor named Che Guevara. Che’s dream was an epic one: to unite Latin America and the rest of the developing world through armed revolution and to end once and for all the poverty and injustice he saw there. Anderson’s biography traces Che’s life and death from the revolutionary capitals of Havana and Algiers to the battlegrounds of Bolivia and the Congo, from the halls of power in Moscow and Washington to the exile havens of Miami, Mexico, and Guatemala, revealing Che’s crucial role in an era of tumultuous change.

Jon Lee Anderson, working over the last five years, has had unprecedented access to Che’s personal archives through the cooperation of his widow, obtaining previously unpublished diaries and other important documents. He also gained access to Cuban…[more]

Book:The Last Governor

The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong

Jonathan Dimbleby

Using unrivalled access to Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, Jonathan Dimbleby provides a compelling narrative of a great political and human drama: the final chapter in Britain’s colonial history, the five years leading up to the handover of Hong Kong and its five million people to Communist China on July 1, 1997.

Since 1992 Dimbleby had privileged access to Patten, and to key diplomats, politicians, and business leaders in Hong Kong, as he developed both this book and a five-part BBC TV series, which was shown on TVOntario.

He sets the crisis—with its many consequences for Canada and the rest of the world—against 150 years of Anglo-Chinese relationships since the Opium Wars and the seizure of Hong Kong. He also provides a panoramic portrait of colonial rule and of the shining capitalist “jewel” itself, using the voices of its people—from the richest entrepreneur to the poorest refugee.

The Last Governor is one of those rare and exciting books that captures history in the making.

Book:Standing in the Sun

Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.M.W. Turner

Anthony Bailey

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Britain’s greatest and most mysterious artist, was the son of a Convent Garden barber and a woman who died in Bethlehem mental hospital. During his lifetime (1775-1851), Turner achieved fame and fortune for a range of work encompassing seascape and landscape, immensely powerful oil paintings and intimate watercolors. His friend and colleague C. R. Leslie remembered him thus: “Turner was short and stout, and had a sturdy, sailor-like walk. He might be taken for the captain of a steamboat at first glance; but a second would find more in his face than belongs in any ordinary mind. There was the peculiar keenness of expression in his eye that is only seen in men of constant habits of observation.”

For this new biography, the first comprehensive narrative of Turner’s life in a generation, Anthony Bailey has searched through the archives, studied the scholarly literature, made use of much research done in the last thirty years, and looked at…[more]

Book:Turner

Turner: A Life

James Hamilton

J.M.W. Turner was a painter whose treatment of light put him squarely in the pantheon of the world’s preeminent artists, but his character was a tangle of fascinating contradictions. While he could be coarse and rude, manipulative, ill-mannered, and inarticulate, he was also generous, questioning, and humane, and he displayed through his work a hitherto unrecognized optimism about the course of human progress. With two illegitimate daughters and several mistresses whom Turner made a career of not including in his public life, the painter was also known for his entrepreneurial cunning, demanding and receiving the highest prices for his work.

Over the course of sixty years, Turner traveled thousands of miles to seek out the landscapes of England and Europe. He was drawn overwhelmingly to coasts, to the electrifying rub of the land with the sea, and he regularly observed their union from…[more]

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