Shirley Hazzard was born January 30, 1931, in Sydney, Australia, the daughter of a government official, Reginald Hazzard and Catherine Stein. She was educated at Queenwood College, Sydney. In 1947 her father was appointed Australian trade commissioner to Hong Kong. Hazzard, who accompanied her parents, began work with the British Combined Services Intelligence in Hong Kong. Subsequently, she followed her family to postings in Wellington, New Zealand, working for the British High Commissioner (1949-1950); to London; and ultimately to New York, where her father became trade commissioner in 1950.
Hazzard remained in the U.S. after the departure of her parents in 1951, eventually obtaining citizenship and a position at the United Nations in the general service category of Technical Assistance to Underdeveloped Countries (1952-1962). Under this auspice, she spent a year (1956/1957), in Italy, working with the international supply mission. During the period in Italy, Hazzard began to write short stories, with the first published in the New Yorker. In 1962 Hazzard resigned from the U.N., in order to focus on writing. The following year, 10 of her New Yorker stories were published as "Cliffs of Fall and Other Stories." Her literary reputation was cemented with the publication of her novel, "The Transit of Venus," (1980), for which she received worldwide attention and awards such as the National Book Critics Circle and the PEN/Faulkner award.
A long-time resident, Hazzard maintained an active presence in the literary and cultural scene of New York City. She also lectured extensively around the country, and was Boyer lecturer in Australia in 1984 and 1988. Hazzard wrote two critical books about the United Nations, "People in Glass Houses: Portraits of Organization Life," (1967, 2004); and "Countenance of Truth: the United Nations and the Waldheim Case," (1990). However, she is best known for her novels which garnered her the highest literary honors. Besides those already mentioned for "The Transit of Venus," awards include: U.S. National Institute of Arts and Letters award in literature (1966); National Book Award nomination, National Book Foundation (1971); Guggenheim fellow (1974); Miles Franklin Award (2004); and for Hazzard's novel, "The Great Fire," the National Book Award for Fiction (2003) and the Howells Medal for most distinguished novel, only issued every five years by the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2005).
Hazzard married biographer and novelist Francis Steegmuller in 1963. Together they cultivated a circle of significant literary friendships, not least of which included that of Graham Greene on the island of Capri, a favorite destination of Hazzard and Steegmuller during the summers in the 1960s through the 1980s. Their relationship and time spent with Greene is recollected with Hazzard's characteristic perspicacity and appreciation of human nature in her book, "Greene on Capri," (2000).
Hazzard died on December 12, 2016, in Manhattan, New York, N.Y.
Sources/citations: Hazzard, Shirley: "Countenance of Truth," (Viking, 1990). "Greene on Capri - a Memoir," (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, N.Y., 2000). Sherry, Norman: "The Life of Graham Greene, 1939-1955, Volume 2," (Viking, 1994). "The Life of Graham Greene, 1955-1991, Volume 3," (Viking, 2004). Literary Resource Center - www.galenet.galegroup.com