FOUR premieres at the National Theatre, a West End double-bill transfer and two movies would be more than a lifetime’s work for most writers, but Alan Bennett managed them all in a single decade.
The third volume of his celebrated diaries, published next week, recalls the years 2005-2015, and is appearing, accompanied by a TV documentary and a live Q&A from his local library, fully ten years after the previous chapter.
Bennett, whose homes are in Primrose Hill, London, and his beloved Yorkshire Dales, has titled the new volume Keeping On Keeping On, and says of himself: “I shall still be thought to be kindly, cosy and essentially harmless. I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat’ and did I stab Judi Dench with a pitchfork I should still be a teddy bear.”
The new volume follows the best-selling diaries Writing Home and Untold Stories, each published ten years apart. In it, he documents his National Theatre works The Habit of Art, People, Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, and the film versions of two earlier works, The History Boys and The Lady in the Van.
It also contains a provocative sermon on private education, at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and a passionate defence of the public library system, and Bennett’s reflections on a 25-year collaboration with director Nicholas Hytner.
Bennett, who was born in Leeds and whose northern sensitivities colour all his work, has been at the vanguard of Britain’s literary elite for more than 55 years, since he brought Beyond the Fringe to the stage along with Jonathan Miller, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
• Alan Bennett’s new collection of diaries, Keeping On Keeping On, is published at £25 by Profile Book and Faber & Faber on October 20. www.alanbennettlive.co.uk.