Francis Spufford

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Francis Spufford FRSL (born 1964) is an English author and teacher of writing whose career has seen him shift gradually from non-fiction to fiction. His first novel Golden Hill received critical acclaim and numerous prizes including the Costa Book Award for a first novel,[1] the Desmond Elliott Prize[2] and the Ondaatje Prize.[3] In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Early life[edit]

Spufford was born in 1964. He is the son of the late social historian Professor Margaret Spufford (1935–2014) and the late economic historian Professor Peter Spufford (1934–2017). He studied English literature at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, gaining a BA in 1985.


He was Chief Publisher's Reader from 1987–1990 for Chatto & Windus.

Spufford was a Royal Literary Fund fellow at Anglia Ruskin University from 2005 to 2007, and since 2008 has taught at Goldsmiths College in London on the MA in Creative and Life Writing there. In 2018 he was made a professor.[4]


Spufford specialized in works of non-fiction for the first part of his career, but began a transition towards fiction in 2010. In 2016 he for the first time published a book which could indisputably be classified as a novel.

  • I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination, 1996 - won literary prizes including the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Writers Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and the Somerset Maugham Award in 1997.[5]
  • The Child That Books Built, 2002
  • Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin, 2003 - nominated for the Aventis Prize
  • Red Plenty, 2010 - longlisted for the Orwell Prize, and translated into Dutch, Spanish, Estonian, Polish, German, Russian and Italian, with versions in French and Turkish following. This is a fusion of history and fiction which dramatises the period in the history of the USSR (c.1960) when the possibility of creating greater abundance than capitalism seemed near. It is influenced by science fiction, and uses many of its tools, but is not itself science fiction.
  • Unapologetic, 2012, translated into Dutch as Dit is Geen Verdediging, 2013, into Spanish as Impenitente and German as Heilige (Un)Vernunft!, 2014.
  • Golden Hill, 2016 - won the Costa Book Award for a first novel,[1] the Desmond Elliott Prize,[2] the New York City Book Award of the New York Society Library, and the Ondaatje Prize.[3] The novel was also shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction,[6] the Rathbones Folio Prize,[7] the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award[8] and the British Book Awards Debut Novel of the Year.[9]
  • True Stories and Other Essays, 2017
  • Light Perpetual, 2021, with translations into German, Dutch, Italian, Danish, Spanish, Catalan, Russian and Arabic to follow – longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.[10]

Spufford has also edited three anthologies: The Chatto Book of Cabbages and Kings, 1989, about lists used as a literary device, The Chatto Book of the Devil, 1993, and The Antarctic, 2008.

In March 2019, it was reported that Spufford had written a novel, The Stone Table, set in the universe of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series, during the time between The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Spufford distributed self-printed copies to friends. The novel was praised as a "seamless recreation of Lewis’s writing-style", and Spufford hoped to obtain permission from the C. S. Lewis estate to publish it commercially. In the absence of permission, the earliest publication date would be 2034, seventy years after Lewis’s death, when the copyright on the original books expires in the UK.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Spufford lives just outside Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is a practising Christian and is married to an Anglican priest, the Reverend Dr Jessica Martin, who is a Residentiary Canon of Ely Cathedral.[12] He served from 2015 to 2021 on General Synod as a lay representative of the Diocese of Ely.[13]


  1. ^ a b "Costa Book of the Year: Sebastian Barry celebrates second win". BBC News. 31 January 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Golden Hill wins £10k Desmond Elliott Prize". The Bookseller. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b Danuta Kean (8 May 2017). "Francis Spufford wins the Ondaatje prize with Golden Hill". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Department of English & Comparative Literature: Francis Spufford". Goldsmiths College. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
  5. ^ "The Somerset Maugham Awards: Past Winners". The Society of Authors. Archived from the original on 26 June 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
  6. ^ "Walter Scott historical fiction prize shortlist revealed". BBC News. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  7. ^ "2017 shortlisted books". Rathbones. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Spufford on shortlist for Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017 | The Bookseller". Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Books of the Year – 2017 | The Bookseller". Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  10. ^ "The 2021 Booker Prize longlist is". The Booker Prizes. 27 July 2021.
  11. ^ Richard Lea (19 March 2019). "Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Cathedral News". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  13. ^ "General Synod election results". Retrieved 12 December 2015.

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