An Oxford trained biologist, Mawer has long combined writing with teaching biology, principally in Rome where he has lived for the last forty years. His writing career began in 1989 with the publication by Hamish Hamilton of his first novel, Chimera. This won the Society of Authors’ McKitterick Prize for first novels in 1990. Two more novels followed before Mendel’s Dwarf in 1997 reached the last ten of the Booker Prize and was a New York Times “Book to Remember” for 1998. The Gospel of Judas, The Fall (winner of the 2003 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature) and Swimming to Ithaca followed.
In 2009 The Glass Room was published,The Guardian describing it as “a thing of extraordinary beauty and symmetry”. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Wingate Prize, it was a bestseller in the US and the UK.
Trapeze was his ninth novel, published in 2012. The New York Times said of it that the reader is “left dangling at the denouement in cliff-hanger purgatory, waiting for the sequel”. Tightrope, the sequel, duly came out 2015. In March 2016 it was chosen as Waterstones Novel of the Month and in June it won the 2016 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the same prize for which The Glass Room had been short-listed seven years earlier.
Mawer has also written two nonfiction books, A Place in Italy, published in Britain in 1992, and Gregor Mendel, Planting the Seeds of Genetics (US, 2006).
Mawer’s work has been widely translated. INFilm Praha are about to shoot a screen version of The Glass Room, which has also been brilliantly adapted for the stage in Mendel’s home city of Brno.
Simon will speak at Opus Theatre on Friday 31 August