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Author and editor Diana Athill dies aged 101

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The acclaimed author and editor for Margaret Atwood and Philip Roth, Diana Athill, has died in a hospice aged 101, as confirmed this week by her publisher Granta.

As well as being the famed editor for these well-known literary figures, to name only a few, Athill was also a successful author in her own right and was the oldest ever winner of the Costa biography award aged 91. Her novel, Somewhere Towards the End, also won the National Book Critics Circle in 2010.

As one of the most admired editors in publishing, Athill assisted in advancing the careers of many of the writers she worked alongside, including Atwood and Roth, as well as V S Naipaul and more, before retiring from editing in 1993 aged 75.

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Her publisher, Granta, tweeted and confirmed the news on Thursday morning. They said:

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of memoirist and editor Diana Athill following a short illness. She was 101. We will miss her immeasurably.”

Born in Norfolk in December 1917, Athill was a voracious reader from a young age, a hobby that continued on throughout her entire career. 

She published eight memoirs, as well as a novel, a collection of stories and a collection of letters. Writing and publishing well into her nineties, Athill reflected on life’s greatest experiences and how it really feels to be old.

She was also awarded an OBE by the Queen in her 2009 New Years Honours list for services to literature.

In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Athill showed how she will now be viewed as a great loss to literature. She said that:

"For a long time age and death were taboo subjects in this country. My father used to walk out of the room when people tried to talk about death. He just couldn’t bear it. But now I think the fact that I am in my 90s and still compos mentis, and able to write and have a nice time, is encouraging to people. They can look at me and say, “There is somebody who is old - which I am dreading – but there, it’s not so bad.””

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