William Trevor

William Trevor

William Trevor, KBE (born 24 May 1928) is an Irish short story writer, novelist and playwright.


Born William Trevor Cox in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland to a middle-class Protestant family, he moved several times to other provincial towns due to his father's work as a bank official. He was educated at St. Columba's College, County Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin. He received a degree in history from Trinity College, Dublin.

Trevor worked for a while as a sculptor, supplementing his income by teaching. He married Jane Ryan in 1952 and emigrated to England two years later. His first novel, " A Standard of Behaviour", was published in 1958, but had little critical success.

After abandoning sculpting he became a copywriter in London before becoming a full-time writer in 1965. Trevor's stories are set in both England and Ireland, ranging from black comedies to tales based on Irish history and politics. He focused on the tensions between Protestant landowners and Catholic tenants. Trevor maintains that, unlike the characters in his stories, those in his novels 'cause everything to happen.' His early books are peopled by eccentrics who speak in a pedantically formal manner and engage in hilariously comic activities, which are recounted by a detached narrative voice. Instead of one central figure, the novels feature several protagonists of equal importance, drawn together by an institutional setting, which acts as a convergence point for their individual stories. The later novels are thematically and technically more complex. The operation of grace in the world is explored, and several narrative voices are used to view the same events from different angles. Unreliable narrators and different perspectives reflect the fragmentation and uncertainty of modern life. Again, Trevor draws increasingly on his Irish background for setting and character, and "Fools of Fortune" was a new departure in that it was Trevor's first 'Big House' novel. Trevor continued to explore the decaying institution of the 'Big House' in "The Story of Lucy Gault".

Works and themes

He has written several collections of short stories that were well received. His short stories often follow a Chekhovian pattern. Characters have deeply felt longings but must accept that life will not change, and the inevitable has to be endured. There are fragmentary moments of illumination, but these are soon quenched, and problems prevail. One of the dominant themes in the stories is the difficulty of dealing with truth, of recognizing it, of communicating it, and of accepting it. The characters in Trevor's work are usually marginalized members of society: children, old people, single middle-aged men and women, or the unhappily married. Those who cannot accept the reality of their lives create their own alternative worlds into which they retreat. A number of the stories use elements of the Gothic convention to explore the nature of evil and its connection with madness. Trevor acknowledges the influence of James Joyce on his short story writing, and 'the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal' can be detected in his work, but the overall impression is not of gloominess, since, particularly in the early work, the author's wry humor offers the reader a tragicomic version of the world. He has adapted much of his work for stage, television and radio. "Felicia's Journey" was made into an acclaimed film by Atom Egoyan.

Awards and distinctions

Trevor is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and Aosdána. He was awarded an honorary CBE in 1977 for his "services to literature", and was made a Companion of Literature in 1994. In 2002 he received an honorary knighthood in recognition of his services to literature.


*1964: Hawthornden Prize for Literature for "The Old Boys"
*1964: Hawthornden Prize for Literature for "The Boarding House"
*1970: "Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize
*1975: Royal Society of Literature for "Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories"
*1976: Whitbread Award for "The Children of Dynmouth"
**Allied Irish Banks Prize for fiction
**Heinemann Award for Fiction
**Shortlisted for the Booker Prize
*1980: Giles Cooper Award for "Beyond the Pale"
*1982: Giles Cooper Award for "Autumn Sunshine"
*1982: Jacob's Award for TV adaptation of "The Ballroom of Romance"
*1983: Whitbread Prize for "Fools of Fortune "
*1991: "Reading Turgenev" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize
*1994: Whitbread Prize Best Novel for "Felicia's Journey"
*1999: David Cohen British Literature Prize by the Arts Council of England in recognition of his work.
*2001: Irish Literature Prize
*2002: "The Story of Lucy Gault" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award.
*2003: Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award at the Listowel Writers' Week
*2008: Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature.

A monument to Trevor - a bronze sculpture by Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring in the form of a lectern, with an open book incorporating an image of the writer and a quotation, as well as the titles of his three Whitbread Prize-winning works, and two others of significance - was unveiled in Trevor's native Mitchelstown on 25 August 2004.

In 2002, non-American authors became eligible to compete for the prestigious O. Henry Awards. To date Trevor has won the award three times - for his stories "Sacred Statues" (2002), "The Dressmaker's Child" (2006), and "The Room" (2007), a juror favourite of that year.

William and Jane Trevor have resided in Devon, England for many years.


*"A Standard of Behaviour" (Hutchinson, 1958)
*"The Old Boys" (Bodley Head, 1964)
*"The Boarding House" (Bodley Head, 1965)
*"The Love Department" (Bodley Head, 1966)
*"The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories" (Bodley Head, 1967)
*"Mrs Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel" (Bodley Head, 1969)
*"Miss Gomez and the Brethren" (Bodley Head, 1971)
*"The Old Boys" (play, Davis-Poynter, 1971)
*"A Night with Mrs da Tanka" (play, Samuel French, 1972)
*"Going Home" (play, Samuel French, 1972)
*"The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories" (Bodley Head, 1972)
*"Elizabeth Alone" (Bodley Head, 1973)
*"Marriages" (play, Samuel French, 1973)
*"The Last Lunch of the Season" (Covent Garden Press, 1973)
*"Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories" (Bodley Head, 1975)
*"The Children of Dynmouth" (Bodley Head, 1976)
*"Lovers of their Time" (Bodley Head, 1978)
*"The Distant Past" (Poolbeg Press, 1979)
*"Other People's Worlds" (Bodley Head, 1980)
*"Beyond the Pale" (Bodley Head, 1981)
*"Scenes from an Album" (Co-Op Books (Dublin), 1981)
*"Fools of Fortune" (Bodley Head, 1983)
*"The Stories of William Trevor" (Penguin, 1983)
*"A Writer's Ireland: Landscape in Literature" (Thames & Hudson, 1984)
*"The News from Ireland and Other Stories" (Bodley Head, 1986)
*"Nights at the Alexandra" (Hutchinson, 1987)
*"The Silence in the Garden" (Bodley Head, 1988)
*"Family Sins and Other Stories" (Bodley Head, 1989)
*"Two Lives" (Viking, 1991)
*"Juliet's Story" (Bodley Head, 1992)
*"Outside Ireland: Selected Stories" (Viking, 1992)
*"Excursions in the Real World: Memoirs" (Hutchinson, 1993)
*"Felicia's Journey" (Viking, 1994)
*"After Rain" (Viking, 1996)
*"Death in Summer" (Viking, 1998)
*"Personal Essays" (1999)
*"The Hill Bachelors" (Viking, 2000)
*"The Story of Lucy Gault" (Viking, 2002)
*"A Bit On the Side" (Viking, 2004)
*"Cheating At Canasta" (Viking, 2007)
*"Bodily Secrets" (Penguin, 2007) [ [http://www.irishwriters-online.com/williamtrevor.html William Trevor ] ]

As an editor

*"The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories" (Oxford University Press, 1989)


* Mary Fitzgerald-Hoyt: "William Trevor - Re-Imagining Ireland", Liffey Press, Dublin 2003; ISBN 978-1904148067
* Dolores MacKenna: "William Trevor - The Writer and His Work", New Island Books, Dublin 1999; ISBN 978-1874597742
* Tom McAlindon: "Tragedy, history, and myth: William Trevor's Fools of Fortune. (Critical Essay)"; in: Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies, 2003
* Kristin Morrison: "William Trevor", Twayne; New York 1993; ISBN 978-0805770322
* Hugh Ormsby-Lennon:" Fools of Fiction - Reading William Trevor's Stories", Maunsel& Co., Dublin 2004; ISBN 978-1930901216
* Gregory A. Schirmer: "William Trevor - A Study of His Fiction", Routledge, London 1990; ISBN 978-0415044936

External links

* [http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth122 British Council arts group article on William Trevor]
* [http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth122 Trevor page at Contemporary Writers site]
* [http://www.irelandliteratureguide.com/william_trevor.html William Trevor Resource]
* [http://www.dublinquarterly.com/06/bk_rev.html#1 Dublin Quarterly article on Trevor's short stories]
* [http://www.readireland.ie/aotm/Trevor.html Read Ireland's Trevor page]
* [http://www.newyorker.com/search/query?query=william+trevor&queryType=nonparsed&submitbtn.x=0&submitbtn.y=0&submitbtn=Submit] William Trevor Stories in The New Yorker's Archives

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