Shirley Hazzard Shirley Hazzard i(A33180 works by) (a.k.a. Shirley Steegmuller)
Born: Established: 30 Jan 1931 Sydney, ; Died: Ceased: 12 Dec 2016 Manhattan, New York (City), New York (State),
United States of America (USA),

Gender: Female
Expatriate assertion
AustLit is a subscription service. The content and services available here are limited because you have not been recognised as a subscriber. Find out how to gain full access to AustLit


Shirley Hazzard was born in Sydney and educated at Queenwood School for Girls in Mosman; she left the school in 1947 to with her parents, who were on diplomatic postings, and has lived overseas since that date. At the age of sixteen, while living in Hong Kong, she was engaged by the British Intelligence and involved in monitoring the Civil War in China 1947-1948. She since lived in New Zealand, Italy and the United States. After working as a clerical employee of the United Nations between 1952 and 1962, she became a vocal opponent of that institution, writing several books on its flaws including Defeat of an Ideal: A Study of the Self-Destruction of the United Nations (1973) and Countenance of Truth (1990).

In 1963, she married the writer Francis Steegmuller (American biographer, translator, and Flaubert scholar), who died in 1994. She was based primarily in New York City from 2006, with some time in her residence in Capri.

Hazzard began writing short stories in the 1950s, publishing them in various magazines such as the New Yorker. Her first collection of stories, Cliffs of Fall, appeared in 1963 and in 1966 her collection, People in Glass Houses satirised the United Nations as The Organisation. Hazzard has written four novels, with Australia featuring only in The Transit of Venus (1980) and The Great Fire (2003), through the lives of her expatriate characters.

Now an American citizen, Hazzard has revisited Australia several times, writing of her travels for the New Yorker in January 1977 and publishing her 1984 Boyer lectures as Coming of Age in Australia (1985). She has also written a memoir of her friendship with Graham Greene: Green on Capri (2000).

In 2005 Shirley Hazzard was awarded the William Dean Howell's Medal from the US Academy of Arts and Letters. She was also honoured by the New York Public Library (on 14 November 2005) with a Library Lion Award.

Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

The Great Fire 2003 single work novel

'The year is 1947. The great fire of the Second World War has convulsed Europe and Asia. In its wake, Aldred Leith, an acclaimed hero of the conflict, has spent two years in China at work on an account of world-transforming change there. Son of a famed and sexually ruthless novelist, Leith begins to resist his own self-sufficiency, nurtured by war. Peter Exley, another veteran and an art historian by training, is prosecuting war crimes committed by the Japanese. Both men have narrowly escaped death in battle, and Leith saved Exley's life. The men have maintained long-distance friendship in a postwar loneliness that haunts them both, and which has swallowed Exley whole. Now in their thirties, with their youth behind them and their world in ruins, both must invent the future and retrieve a private humanity.

'Arriving in Occupied Japan to record the effects of the bomb at Hiroshima, Leith meets Benedict and Helen Driscoll, the Australian son and daughter of a tyrannical medical administrator. Benedict, at twenty, is doomed by a rare degenerative disease. Helen, still younger, is inseparable from her brother. Precocious, brilliant, sensitive, at home in the books they read together, these two have been, in Leith's words, delivered by literature. The young people capture Leith's sympathy; indeed, he finds himself struggling with his attraction to this girl whose feelings are as intense as his own and from whom he will soon be fatefully parted.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2005 shortlisted International Awards International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
2004 longlisted International Awards Booker Prize (UK)
2004 shortlisted Women's Prize for Fiction (UK) Orange Prize for Fiction (UK)
2004 winner Miles Franklin Literary Award
2004 finalist International Awards Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize Fiction
2003 winner International Awards National Book Awards (USA) Fiction
The Transit of Venus 1980 single work novel
2007 shortlisted International Awards Prix Femina (France) Roman Etranger (Foreign novel) Shortlisted for the 2007 translation by Claude Demanuelli.
1981 finalist International Awards National Book Awards (USA)
1980 winner International Awards National Book Critics' Circle (USA) Fiction
Last amended 14 Dec 2016 11:00:30
Influence on:
Reading Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus II Lucy Dougan 2008 single work poetry
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: