"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. Tom Stoppard, photographed in 1976: a shy man who has found a way to show off. Eugen sought to follow, on a ship bound for Australia. But the core of Tom Stoppard remains hermetic, sealed. 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. 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. Declan Kiberd remembers the playwright calling on Prof Richard Ellmann in his Oxford rooms in the 1970s to discuss Ellmann’s biography of Joyce, which provided the foundational story of 1974’s Travesties. 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. When the Japanese army arrived in February 1942, the family had to take flight once more. Buy Tom Stoppard: A Life Main by Lee, Professor Dame Hermione (ISBN: 9780571314430) from Amazon's Book Store. The Books Quiz: Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent is set in which county? Audiences become puzzled, discomfited, but also engaged. After further peregrinations around India, Marta Sträussler and her two young sons wound up in Darjeeling, where the boys went to an English school. Stoppard and his first wife, Josie, married young and had two sons. 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). Increasingly, he wrote theatre reviews, and then followed his dream by giving up his job, moving to London, and writing plays. The mother and two young children were rushed on to a ship that was about to leave; they ended up in Bombay. One of the main lessons Stoppard learned from Beckett and Pinter was the dramatic effectiveness of withholding information. 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. Tomás Sträussler became Tom Stoppard, to all intents and purposes a young English schoolboy. Sinéad Cusack made it clear from the start that she intended staying married to Jeremy Irons and close to their two sons. Things soon went from good to better. Stoppard was born TomáÅ¡ Straussler, in Zlín, a city dominated by the shoe manufacturing industry, in the Moravia region of Czechoslovakia. Tom Stoppard | Biography, Plays, Movies, & Facts | Britannica Then on Sunday Bill Bryden in the Observer proclaimed it “the most brilliant debut since John Arden’s”. 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. 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. 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. This is a hugely impressive work. Stoppard may not have gone to university, but he remained a scholar in his own creative way when it came to preparing a play. In a sense, though, those are its strengths. 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. The pandemic is not the first time Stoppard has confronted global disaster. At other times nothing happens, though as Beckett might have said, it does that sometimes. But the social side is only the half of it. But this is her first biography of a man, her first living subject and her first playwright. Lee's biography is full of Stoppard's voice, humour and thoughts about life: there's a Stoppard joke on almost every page. Tom Stoppard: A Life Hermione Lee. Tom Stoppard has written some of the most important plays of the past 50 years. You'd have a chance at least. The final page of the play is a direct transcription of the questions Stoppard asked about various family members. He has been described, perhaps inaccurately, as “England’s most rightwing playwright”. 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. From left: Wilf Scolding (Septimus Hodge), Larrington Walker (Richard Noakes), Dakota Blue Richards (Thomasina Coverly) and Kirsty Besterman (Lady Croom) in. Stoppard went on to lengthy relationships with two actresses. 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. Pinter permanently enlarged our sense of what a play can be. Lee’s book has the scope of a novel; it is superbly researched and written with a rare empathy and understanding of human nature. In 1942 they attempted to flee again when the Japanese invaded. Hermione Lee sheds light on a private man, from his Czech Jewish past to his marriages, Tom Stoppard in London, 2018. Photograph: Jane Bown/The Observer “I simply don’t like revealing myself,” Tom Stoppard once said. When it premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe it was rubbished by the dailies: “Inexplicable throughout” (Daily Mail). Jumpers followed in 1972, mixing farce with metaphysics. There their mother met and later married an English officer, Major Kenneth Stoppard, who brought the whole family to England in February 1946. Kenneth Tynan was on the phone on Monday on behalf of the National Theatre, where he was dramaturg and adviser. • Tom Stoppard: A Life is published by Faber (£30). 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. 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. 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. Knopf, $35 (896p) ISBN 978-0-451-49322-4. Buy this book. 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. In the event, Tom Stoppard: A Life shows that he has chosen well. 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. It is hard to imagine a more distinguished biographical pairing than a book on Sir Tom Stoppard written by Dame Hermione Lee. (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.). Some were successful; others less so. Hermione Lee’s biography of Tom Stoppard is an “astute and unfailingly clear” commentary on the playwright’s life and work. This is a hugely impressive work. 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. He was born Tomás Sträussler in Czechoslovakia in 1937 to a Jewish doctor and his wife. 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. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead ran for three years in that production; there have been countless revivals, translations and adaptations. The boys went to school in Derbyshire, and “Tom”, identifying passionately with his new country, grew up an Englishman, playing cricket and playing the part. A brilliant 23-year-old actor named Peter O’Toole starred in Hamlet and Waiting for Godot. The luck remained with Tom as he grew up in England. 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. Wikpedia at 20: Did you know Will Ferrell was once not killed in a paragliding incident? In the event, Tom Stoppard: A Life shows that he has chosen well. 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.”. 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. Lee had published acclaimed lives of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald. His most recent plays, exploring his hitherto suppressed European heritage, richly deserve to be seen in Dublin. 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. “Tom Stoppard: The Years of Struggle” would be quite a short one-act piece: he was not yet 28 when the RSC bought an option on his idea for a play about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of the minor characters in Hamlet. 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”. 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). Lee’s book has the scope of a novel; it is superbly researched and written with a … 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. 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. 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