William Trevor was born on May 24, 1928, in Mitchelstown, County
Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. He grew up in various provincial towns and attended a number of schools, graduating from Trinity College, in Dublin, with a degree in history. He first exercised his artistry as a sculptor, working as a teacher in Northern Ireland and then emigrated to England in search of work when the school went bankrupt. He could have returned to Ireland once he became
a successful writer, he said, "but by then I had become a wanderer, and one way and another, I just stayed in England ... I hated leaving Ireland. I was very bitter at the time. But, had it not happened, I think I might never have written at all."
In 1958 Trevor published his first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, to little critical success. Two years later, he abandoned sculpting completely, feeling his work had become too abstract, and found a job writing copy for a London advertising agency. 'This was absurd,' he said. 'They would give me four lines or so to write and four or five days to write it in. It was so boring. But they had given me this typewriter to work on, so I just started writing stories. I sometimes think all the people who were missing in my sculpture gushed out into the stories.' He published several short stories, then his second and third novels, which both won the Hawthornden Prize (established in 1919 by Alice Warrender and named after William Drummond of Hawthornden, the Hawthornden Prize is one of the UK's oldest literary awards). A number of other prizes followed, and Trevor began working full-time as a writer in 1965.
Trevor published over 40 novels, short story collections, plays, and collections of nonfiction. He won the O. Henry Prize four times and the Whitbread Award three times; he was also nominated for the Booker Prize five times. In 1977 he was awarded an honorary CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to literature. Trevor regularly spent half the year in Italy or Switzerland, often visiting Ireland in the other half. His home is in Devon, in South West England, on an old mill surrounded by 40 acres of land.
He died in November 2016 aged 88. His US publisher Kathryn Court at Penguin commented in a statement, "William Trevor was a truly brilliant writer, and one of the most compassionate human beings I have worked with. He has left us a wonderful legacy."
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