Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for the stage including Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van (together with the screenplay), A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George), and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, London, The History Boys (also a screenplay) won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for Best New Play and the South Bank Award. On Broadway,The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics’ Award, a New York Drama League Award and six Tonys. The Habit of Art opened at the National in 2009; in 2012, People, as well as the two short plays Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, was also staged there.
Alan Bennett’s collection of prose, Keeping On Keeping On, published in October 2016. Of his two previous collections, Writing Home was a number one bestseller and Untold Stories won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. Bennett’s Six Poets, Hardy to Larkin, An Anthology, was published in 2014. Fiction includes The Uncommon Reader and Smut: Two Unseemly Stories.
‘Alan Bennett, with his combination of pitiless observation and gentle understatement, is perhaps the best-loved of English writers alive today.’
‘Bennett is funny, sometimes screamingly so. He is prolific, but never sloppy. His sentences are always beautiful . . . There is joy in gentleness, in emotions kept in check, in kindness and domesticity, in nature, in history, in hilarious detail . . . Long may it continue.’
‘To settle down on a darkening evening with a new volume of Alan Bennett is to be in the company of an old friend.’
‘Cleverer and funnier than any one person has a right to be.’
‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.’
‘Country is park and shore is marina, spare time is leisure and more, year by year. We have become a battery people, a people of underprivileged hearts fed on pap in darkness, bred out of all taste and season to savour the shoddy splendours of the new civility. The hedges come down from the silent fields. The lease is out on the corner site. A butterfly is an event.’
‘A book is a device to ignite the imagination.’
‘Libraries have to be local, they have to be handy. They shouldn’t need an expedition. But that early period in a child’s reading life is vital. Interfere with that, hinder a child’s access to books in whatever form and you damage that child probably for life. I have said it many times already but it’s worth saying again: closing libraries is child abuse. Enough ranting.’
‘I am the King. I tell. I am not told. I am the verb, sir. I am not the object.’