Paul West Biography

Paul West (February 23, 1930) is a novelist and poet. He was born in Eckington, Derbyshire in England to Alfred and Mildred (Noden) West. Currently, he resides in upstate New York with his wife Diane Ackerman, a writer, poet, and naturalist. West is the author of twenty-four novels. "He has published poetry, criticism, essays, memoirs (including an extended, sometimes hilarious meditation on learning to swim in middle age) and...novels of an unsettling nonuniformity."

Early life

West grew up in a family that loved books and considered the written word to be sacred. This love of books pushed him to gain a diverse education through his studies at Oxford and Columbia Universities.


West has an eclectic style. Common themes in his works include psychic abuse, failed relationships, and societal inadequacy. However, there is also a strong sense of self-discovery and survival. His works are an outpouring on his view of the human condition. In an interview with David W. Madden, West remarked that he always listens to some kind of classical music while writing and composes all of his works using a typewriter. The revision process is fascinating for him and one he laboriously proceeds through with each literary piece.

West and his novel The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg figure prominently in a chapter in Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee's book Elizabeth Costello. Coetzee's title character is so disturbed by the horrors West describes in his book that she questions, in a lecture given at a conference in Amsterdam on evil, whether a writer can immerse themselves in such darkness without suffering some sort of personal harm. West, unbeknown to Costello until only hours before her very pointed lecture, is also attending the conference.