Simon Gray nicely caught this when he wrote: “It is actually one of Tom’s achievements that one envies him nothing, except possibly his looks, his talents, his money and his luck. Along with its successors, it certainly did that: Jumpers (1972), Travesties (1974), The Real Thing (1982), Arcadia (1993), The Invention of Love (1997), The Coast of Utopia (2002), Rock’n’Roll (2006). The fact that his plays are so immediately recognisable, so unmistakably Stoppardian, may contribute to both sides of his reputation. He associated the country with the freedom of the individual and of the press. It is also a challenging read, partly because of its excessive length and partly because it bulges with often needless detail. His most recent plays, exploring his hitherto suppressed European heritage, richly deserve to be seen in Dublin. Tom Stoppard: A Life was featured as the "Book of the Week". This is a rare opportunity to hear from one of the greatest playwrights of our time, as he talks to Lee, about his fascinating life and career in theatre. His politics have been a particular sticking-point. At the very least, his work reveals a constant endeavour to decipher the puzzles of existence. Stoppard’s life will not need writing again. Faber reprinted the text 23 times in the next 30 years, going on to sell a further half a million copies between 2001 and 2008 alone. He has always thought of a play as an event, not a text: the script is just a partly failed attempt to transcribe the most recent version of the event. As Lee puts it: “She never told her sons, either that she was Jewish or that most of her family had perished in the Holocaust.”, The Straüssler family background took decades to surface properly. Wikpedia at 20: Did you know Will Ferrell was once not killed in a paragliding incident? Jumpers followed in 1972, mixing farce with metaphysics. The marriage with Miriam was the meeting of two glamorous, professionally driven people, and her media career as a health correspondent prospered along with his. Tom Stoppard Life Family Your The whole notion of journalism being an institution whose fundamental purpose is to educate and inform and even, one might say, elevate, has altered under commercial pressure, perhaps, into a different kind of purpose, which is to divert and distract and entertain. Marta and her two sons, Petr and Tomás, went on a ship to – they thought – Australia but it ended up in India. How our experience in the theatre during one of his plays relates to our lives outside is a question that has nagged at discussions of Stoppard’s standing as a writer. Increasingly, he wrote theatre reviews, and then followed his dream by giving up his job, moving to London, and writing plays. Ira Nadel's biography of Tom Stoppard is pleasantly straightforward: largely descriptive, covering a great deal of Stoppard's personal and professional life, without too much hypothesizing or analysis about what possibly motivates and moves the artist. Tom Stoppard & Hermione Lee in Conversation Hermione Lee interviewed Stoppard for the London Library on 6 May 2016, and in conjunction with the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust and TORCH: The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities on 19 May 2016 (see video). They also had two sons, the second of whom, Ed, is a successful actor. Lee's biography is full of Stoppard's voice, humour and thoughts about life: there's a Stoppard joke on almost every page. Readers who, by contrast, like their biographies to romp along from lunch party to lunch party may find that Lee’s long analyses of the plays clog the action, but for my money her astute and unfailingly clear accounts of Stoppard’s complex creations are among the great strengths of this exceptional biography. Hermione Lee sheds light on a private man, from his Czech Jewish past to his marriages, Tom Stoppard in London, 2018. Early life and career The second son of a doctor for the Bata shoe manufacturing company, Thomas Straussler (Stoppard) was born on July 3, 1937, in Zlin, Czechoslovakia. Tom Stoppard is a towering and beloved literary figure. It observes him in rehearsal, looks at the changes he makes to his classic plays over many years, and makes brilliant close readings of his best, … As Hannah, a character in one of his best-loved plays, Arcadia, says: “It’s wanting to know that makes us matter. On Tom Stoppard’s birthday. But this is her first biography of a man, her first living subject and her first playwright. Yet, even so, his reputation may never quite shake off that lingering reservation that has dogged him throughout his career: “It’s all very clever, but ...”. His parents were non-observant Jews, members of a long-established community. But she could not keep up with his stratospheric ascent, and in one press photograph is shown standing behind him with “Mrs Stoppard” on her apron. Eight months later, the Nazis invaded and the family fled to Singapore. You could lie there … It all makes the audience pay attention; occasionally it makes them pay dearly. Other plays followed, roughly every four or five years. Running time: 60 minutes Tom Stoppard is a towering and beloved literary figure. But he seems, admirably, to have decided to put his trust in the “mesh” and to allow his biographer a completely free hand. It would be interesting see him at work on this script of his life: as a master of concision, he would probably cut a good deal, while revising the ending right up to the penultimate performance. At other times nothing happens, though as Beckett might have said, it does that sometimes. It helps that its subject is still alive and professionally active: Leopoldstadt was premiered in London’s West End in January, enjoying six weeks of success before being prematurely closed by the pandemic lockdown. When it premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe it was rubbished by the dailies: “Inexplicable throughout” (Daily Mail). Marta told her sons very little about the family background and the circumstances of their flight from Czechoslovakia; Stoppard was in his late 50s before he fully understood that he was Jewish and that many of his relatives had been murdered by the Nazis. He is the son of Martha Becková and Eugen Straussler, a doctor employed by the Bata shoe company. In The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard has his Oscar Wilde character describe biography as “the mesh through which our real life escapes”. His kind of quantum dramatics messes with our minds and our understanding of time and we love it, but when we get home we still have to set the alarm for work the next day. This is a hugely impressive work. Felicity Kendall had just emerged from her own marriage and wished to preserve her independence. In his most recent plays, Stoppard has turned from the matter of England, which preoccupied him for decades, to examine his European heritage: first, his Czech origins in 2006’s Rock’n’Roll, where he imagines an alternative existence for himself if he had returned from England to live in Czechoslovakia; and now in Leopoldstadt, where the playwright contemplates the fate of those family members who were not lucky enough to escape. The Stoppards’ marriage was reduced to their waving at each other as they individually passed through international airports; they eventually split. The answers were almost all the same: “Auschwitz.”. Rather like certain kinds of crime fiction, it is argued, the action is bound to seem a little lame the second time around when you know how the trick is done. In truth, he seems always to have been more maverick than doctrinaire. Known for his dizzying narrative inventiveness and intense attention to language, he deftly deploys art, science, history, politics, and philosophy in works that span a remarkable spectrum of literary genres: theater, radio, film, TV, journalism, and fiction. I saw it that year as a student. Lee’s book has the scope of a novel; it is superbly researched and written with a … To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. It is also a challenging read, partly because of its excessive length and partly because it bulges with often needless detail. The pandemic is not the first time Stoppard has confronted global disaster. After further peregrinations around India, Marta Sträussler and her two young sons wound up in Darjeeling, where the boys went to an English school. What he lacked in experience he seems to have made up for in chutzpah: he got himself made the paper’s motoring correspondent without revealing that he couldn’t drive. At its heart is a writer steely in his determination to entertain, an inexhaustible mine of mots, a non-stop genius of jokes, capable of winning the Nobel Prize for the interview as an art form. Known for his dizzying narrative inventiveness and intense attention to language, he deftly deploys art, science, history, politics, and philosophy in works that span a remarkable spectrum of literary genres: theater, radio, film, TV, journalism, and fiction. From left: Wilf Scolding (Septimus Hodge), Larrington Walker (Richard Noakes), Dakota Blue Richards (Thomasina Coverly) and Kirsty Besterman (Lady Croom) in. (We learn, interestingly, that he thinks the former is possibly his best play but the latter is his favourite, though that view may have pre-dated the writing of Leopoldstadt.). A brilliant 23-year-old actor named Peter O’Toole starred in Hamlet and Waiting for Godot. In 1993’s Arcadia, seen by Dublin audiences in two productions at the Gate, everything came together in perfect equilibrium: ideas about chaos theory and emotion, seriousness and humour, the past and the present. The young Stoppard chose to become a journalist. Although Stoppard’s plays can seem like the distillation of several course-loads of reading lists, he didn’t go to university. The past was behind them and not mentioned. “I like them to sit with their backs to the engine, and only later to find out where they were going.” In plays famed for their wordsmithery, there can be a surprising amount of silence. Sitting outside on a freezing cold day, a recognisable Stoppard was working on the script of The Hard Problem (then in rehearsal) with intense concentration, exhaling clouds from an endless stream of cigarettes. She understands the pride Stoppard felt when in 1993 he had two major plays running concurrently at the RSC and the National, “the first playwright ever to have done so”, and she gives us glimpses behind the scenes, such as one actor coming off the stage when a play seemed to be going badly, saying “It’s like Stonehenge out there.” It seems unfair that a man of such outrageous gifts should also have been allowed to magic up the perfect biographer to write his life. Perhaps that’s more than enough: what higher praise could a playwright want? The life of the man behind the plays is familiar from countless interviews and profiles, but Hermione Lee has been allowed to go backstage, enabling her to tell the story in unmatchable detail. Stoppard was born TomáÅ¡ Straussler, in Zlín, a city dominated by the shoe manufacturing industry, in the Moravia region of Czechoslovakia. But the core of Tom Stoppard remains hermetic, sealed. Hermione Lee’s biography of Tom Stoppard is an “astute and unfailingly clear” commentary on the playwright’s life and work. “Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. Lee had published acclaimed lives of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald. Certainly, “all through the 1980s he would be a whole-hearted supporter and admirer of Thatcher”. Shakespeare and Beckett fizzed in Stoppard’s brain and fused over the years to inspire his first play in 1967, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Just before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the town's patron, Jan Antonín BaÅ¥a, transferred his Jewish employees, mostly physicians, to branches of his firm outside Eur… In 1942 they attempted to flee again when the Japanese invaded. His biographer clearly shows he is fundamentally happiest when he is on his own, working through the night on his latest play. In 1984 he signed a letter of support for the US invasion of Grenada: being in the company of such co-signatories as Paul Johnson, Kingsley Amis, Roger Scruton, and Peregrine Worsthorne just isn’t a good look. 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"Tom Stoppard: A Life" by Ira Nadel The author of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" has overcome youthful tragedy to live a charmed life -- … And she appreciates the theatre and its lore without being a luvvie. Several years later, the attractive 35-year-old widow was wooed and won by a British army officer, Maj Kenneth Stoppard, who promptly brought his new family from India to England in 1946. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead ran for three years in that production; there have been countless revivals, translations and adaptations. Both a pitch-perfect analysis of the great playwright’s body of work and a scintillating account of a remarkable life lived to its fullest, this biography of Tom Stoppard is another triumph for the incomparable skills of Hermione Lee. We also learn not just which actors got awards for stage and film versions of his work, but even who presented them with their awards. In the event, Tom Stoppard: A Life shows that he has chosen well. Buy this book. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty, First published: Sat, Oct 24, 2020, 06:00. In Tom Stoppard: A Life, Hermione Lee draws on hundreds of interviews with family, friends, and long conversations with Stoppard himself. Cruel Britannia: The British empire exposed in all its viciousness. There their mother met and later married an English officer, Major Kenneth Stoppard, who brought the whole family to England in February 1946. Pinter permanently enlarged our sense of what a play can be. An astute study of the dazzlingly clever playwright, which details the parties and famous friends, but also identifies the emotions that drive much of his work. Lee’s book has the scope of a novel; it is superbly researched and written with a rare empathy and understanding of human nature. Sign up to the Irish Times books newsletter for features, podcasts and more, For the best site experience please enable JavaScript in your browser settings. John Wood, an actor who seemed to have been put on earth for the express purpose of incarnating some of Stoppard’s wittiest characters, is reputed to have turned to a somnolent matinee audience once during a performance of Travesties and snapped: “Oh, do keep up!” Congratulating oneself on keeping up has been one of the major pleasures of spending an evening in Stoppardia. Tom Stoppard has written some of the most important plays of the past 50 years. Stoppard revised and cut ruthlessly as his plays were in rehearsal and even during their run. Almost 1,000 pages is a lot of mesh, and it’s best not to press too hard on what might be meant by “our real life”: in Stoppardia, such questions tend to lead to long speeches about chaos theory. Quoting that line in his biography (twice) is a nice touch. It is striking that a writer who has been so popular and who has been showered with almost every imaginable kind of honour, from the Oscars to the Order of Merit, can still attract such mixed notices. Stoppard went on to lengthy relationships with two actresses. The luck remained with Tom as he grew up in England. But the social side is only the half of it. To set against this, there have been numerous revivals of his best plays where critics, depending on the production, have raved all over again, sometimes claiming to see depths that they missed on a first viewing. Audiences become puzzled, discomfited, but also engaged. Stoppard’s biographer shows with finesse the slow process by which this occurred. The key book for all time on Tom Stoppard: the biography of our greatest living playwright, by one of the leading literary biographers in the English-speaking world, a star in her own right, Hermione Lee. Stoppard may not have gone to university, but he remained a scholar in his own creative way when it came to preparing a play. It’s hard to know how literary history will treat Stoppard. When Hitler invaded in March 1939, the Sträusslers and other professional-class Jewish families (his father was a doctor) were advised to leave as soon as possible. No Hiding by Rob Kearney: Is this a memoir or a marketing tool? He was born Tomás Sträussler in Czechoslovakia in 1937 to a Jewish doctor and his wife. Her attentive exposition of the themes and intricate plot of Arcadia is almost worth the price of admission by itself; Stoppard has often been criticised for being “heartless” or too purely “cerebral”, but it is one of Lee’s several literary-critical triumphs to identify the emotions that drive so much of his work, especially his middle-period masterpieces such as Arcadia and The Invention of Love. Tom Stoppard, photographed in 1976: a shy man who has found a way to show off. • Tom Stoppard: A Life is published by Faber (£30). The father was to follow, but he never did: the Japanese sank the ship he was on. Lee’s book has the scope of a novel; it is superbly researched and written with a … In a sense The mother and two young children were rushed on to a ship that was about to leave; they ended up in Bombay. Known for his dizzying narrative inventiveness and intense attention to language, he deftly deploys art, science, history, politics, and philosophy in works that span a remarkable spectrum of literary genres: theater, radio, film, TV, journalism, and fiction. The final page of the play is a direct transcription of the questions Stoppard asked about various family members. It was news to me that Tom Stoppard and Sinéad Cusack had a relationship. Tomáš Sträussler was born in Zlín in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1937. A lot of pages could have been saved by just saying there was no famous person he didn’t meet (he has invited 650 of his closest friends to his biennial party). Kenneth Tynan was on the phone on Monday on behalf of the National Theatre, where he was dramaturg and adviser. Hermione Lee’s Tom Stoppard is a prodigious achievement. In the event, Tom Stoppard: A Life shows that he has chosen well. Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Tynan at the National Theatre decided to take a gamble on the unknown young playwright, with the result that, as Lee puts it with a proper sense of drama, on Tuesday 11 April 1967 at the Old Vic, “the lights went up on two men in Elizabethan costume, betting on the toss of a coin”. Hermione Lee is the award-winning biographer of Virginia Woolf and Philip Roth. It may be that gilded lilies just aren’t my thing, but I would admire this at times brilliant portrait even more without these showbiz equivalents of the Court Circular. Tom Stoppard is a towering and beloved literary figure. Lee’s biography is perceptive, knowledgeable, stylish and very long. For both, he wrote some of his best parts and finally refuted the long-standing charge that he did not know how to write women. Hermione Lee’s Tom Stoppard is a prodigious achievement. The list goes on, right up to his latest play, Leopoldstadt, whose successful opening run was cut short by the lockdown. It is tempting to see “Hermione Lee” as one of his greatest creations – a professor who knows more about a playwright who writes about professors than he knows about himself, a narrator who understands about unreliable narrators and isn’t fazed by them, a reader who always gets the joke. It was a runaway success of extraordinary proportions. Tom Stoppard: A Life by Hermione Lee review – an exceptional biography An astute study of the dazzlingly clever playwright, which details the … Knopf, $35 (896p) ISBN 978-0-451-49322-4. Tom Stoppard: A Life Hermione Lee. Hermione Lee’s immensely long Tom Stoppard: A Life is expert, engrossing, entertaining and sympathetic to its subject. Things soon went from good to better. Cusack was friendly with Sabrina Guinness, who started seeing Stoppard and, when she learned they were to be married, remarked: “You know, Sabrina has always been looking for a good man; and now she’s got the best man in the world.”. A woman coming out of the first New York production bumped into its author and asked “What’s it about?” According to legend, he replied: “It’s about to make me very rich.”. "The older he got, the less he cared about self-concealment," or so it is said of Sir Tom Stoppard, somewhere deep into the 865 pages of Tom Stoppard: A Life, Hermione Lee's capacious (to put it mildly) biography of the British theatre's leading wordsmith. You'd have a chance at least. Stoppard emerges from this deeply sympathetic, even forgiving, biography as a shy man who has found a way to show off; a man who can’t quite believe his luck but can’t quite believe anything else, either. Then on Sunday Bill Bryden in the Observer proclaimed it “the most brilliant debut since John Arden’s”. The only times I found my mind wandering to the prospect of interval drinks were during the slightly breathless (and hugely detailed) descriptions of Stoppard’s social life once he became a celebrity. Lee concludes that “people feel” he “has made a difference to our culture”, but it’s not easy to say what that difference might be. Instead, at 17 he started work as a reporter on a local newspaper in Bristol. Hermione Lee’s immensely long Tom Stoppard: A Life is expert, engrossing, entertaining and sympathetic to its subject. They left hurriedly that April, travelling to Singapore, where Dr Sträussler had been offered a post in a hospital. This is a hugely impressive work. In December 2014 my wife and I glimpsed him as we passed London’s National Theatre. This is a hugely impressive work. Listen to the latest episodes of Tom Stoppard: A Life by Hermione Lee on BBC Sounds It is how I will always see him.He is a great playwright, and this is a great biography. Delivery charges may apply. Tom Stoppard photographed by Jane Bown in 1967. The more old-school Laurence Olivier took a bit more persuading but was won around by Tynan, and the play was a triumph. It is hard to imagine a more distinguished biographical pairing than a book on Sir Tom Stoppard written by Dame Hermione Lee. The complete review's Review: . “I am a very private sort of person.” It takes a persistent, unflappable and penetrating biographer to take him on. It was torpedoed and sunk; they never saw him again. In 2013, the playwright Tom Stoppard approached Oxford professor Hermione Lee and asked her to write his biography. In 1993 Stoppard (and his mother, in her early 80s, who accompanied him) asked of a relative who met with them in London: “I mean, how Jewish were we?” To which she replied: “You were completely Jewish.”. Not all readers will take quite as indulgent a view of Stoppard as Lee does. These challenging works each receive detailed analysis here. Hermione Lee has done as well anybody could to bring this fundamentally private man to light. Bristol, where the family now lived, was a hive of theatre. Does this mean that his plays are little more than a diverting display of verbal fireworks, clever but of no significance, or are deeper themes about our experience of life being addressed? When the Japanese army arrived in February 1942, the family had to take flight once more. Writing the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love brought in the odd penny, too (plus an Oscar), as did a lot of other film work and adaptations. Stoppard and his first wife, Josie, married young and had two sons. Wilde channelled a whole cultural movement into gorgeous excess while writing a handful of plays that could be put on in the local church hall with a reasonable chance of success. It all helped to sustain a life filled with country houses and Concorde flights, marriages and not-marriages, lots of parties and an awful lot of cigarettes. Tom Stoppard | Biography, Plays, Movies, & Facts | Britannica There have also been repeated grumbles that his are the kinds of play you can only see once. Eugen sought to follow, on a ship bound for Australia. Hermione Lee has written an authorized biography of playwright, screenwriter, translator, and man of letters Tom Stoppard, called Tom Stoppard: A Life.It was released in the United Kingdom on October 1st and should appear in the United States on February 23, 2021. Michael Horden was wonderfully rumpled as the philosopher, repeatedly asking “Is God?”, and Diana Rigg was radiant as his wife Dotty: “her talent was luminous”, as Stoppard remarked last month when she died. The Books Quiz: Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent is set in which county? The blood-line of Stoppard’s early hits might be described as “out of Beckett by The Goon Show”, though “Pinter meets Beyond the Fringe” catches something, too. He has been described, perhaps inaccurately, as “England’s most rightwing playwright”. The world’s population was and there were an estimated babies born … Sinéad Cusack made it clear from the start that she intended staying married to Jeremy Irons and close to their two sons. ... an introduction to biography, and a collection of essays on life-writing, Body Parts. 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