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"Historical novels must point to the future"

A year ago on September 23, at the theatrical premiere of The Mirror and the Light, I saw Hilary Mantel for the last time.

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"Historical novels must point to the future"

A year ago on September 23, at the theatrical premiere of The Mirror and the Light, I saw Hilary Mantel for the last time. It was at the Gielgud Theater in London's West End. Hilary had come from Devon with her husband Gerald. The two sat on the outside in the parquet.

When Hilary saw me during the break, she waved from afar, came over and gave me one of her wonderfully warm hugs. "How nice to see you," she said, her watery blue eyes beaming.

Her kindness, generosity and commitment were overwhelming. She, the best-selling author, the literary star took her time, including me, one of many English correspondents. Hilary answered all of my emails, talked about her everyday life, asked about my family. She made tea and offered lovely cakes when we met at her home near Exmouth for the interview.

Now Hilary Mantel - seventy years old - died unexpectedly. "Suddenly, but peacefully," as her publisher told HarperCollins, as a result of a stroke. "She had so many great novels ahead of her," says her agent Bill Hamilton.

Hilary had suffered from a particularly severe form of endometriosis since she was a teenager. A chronic illness that prevented her from having children and caused such severe pain that she was often unable to work.

Since the publication of "Spiegel und Licht" in March 2020, the last volume in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, things had become quiet around her. “Gerald and I want to move forward with our move to Ireland. If I keep working, the move will never happen," she wrote to me last February. "With a bit of luck, we'll see you next time in Ireland!"

Plans with which Hilary once again antagonized the conservative English press. She wanted "to be an EU citizen again" because she was ashamed of how the British government was treating asylum seekers and migrants. The nasty comments that followed will have been a pleasure to her, she was fond of taking on the Tory establishment.

Don't forget the uproar her comment on Catherine Middleton caused in early 2013. Prince William's wife is a "mannequin" and sentenced to give birth. Hilary made these remarks as part of one of her many wise lectures on English history. The "Daily Mail" inflated the comments so much that Hilary suddenly found herself ostracized as a traitor to the people. She responded the following year with a novel in which Margaret Thatcher is murdered.

In 2016, she found her dislike of all Hurrah Englishmen confirmed in the Brexit referendum and, with her loud criticism of this vote, rose to become the intellectual favorite enemy of many EU opponents, who only grudgingly acknowledged her literary world success. The English soul is free from doubt, she said on an early summer afternoon in 2017 as we spoke for two hours over the Devon beach about her country, Germany and Europe.

England, and by that I mean only England, has long been a united country. It therefore perceives only other nations as nationalistic. It cannot see English nationalism. It's too close to him.”

In a scene from "Mirror and Light," the author describes how a pack of dogs attacked the human remains under a pyre. A little boy watches the animals, frozen with fear.

A scene that corresponds to the present for Hilary, where "monsters like Donald Trump come out of their cage." It is very important to her that "historical novels are written with a view to the future," she once said. Hilary Mantel mastered this art like very few others. She would have written many more great and at the same time important novels.

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