Ian Thomson

Non-fiction writer


Ian Thomson is an award-winning biographer, travel writer, translator and literary critic known for his interest in Italy, the West Indies and the Baltic. His first book, Southern Italy (Collins, 1989), was followed by a translation of the Sicilian crime writer Leonardo Sciascia, Death of an Inquisitor and Other Stories (Harvill, 1990). In 1990 he wrote Bonjour Blanc: A Journey Through Haiti (Hutchinson, 1992), now recognized as a classic adventure and history book. J.G. Ballard in the Daily Telegraph called it “hair-raising but hugely entertaining”.

In 2002 Ian Thomson was awarded the Royal Society of Literature’s W.H.Heinemann prize for Primo Levi: A Life (Hutchinson, 2002), seen today as the definitive life of the Italian writer and Nazi concentration camp survivor. In 2005 Ian Thomson returned to the West Indies to write the controversial The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica (Faber, 2009), which booksellers in Jamaica refused to distribute owing to its alleged “sensitive content”. In 2010 it was awarded the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje prize. Zadie Smith spoke in Harper’s of an “excellent book”. Afterwards Thomson contributed to the Jamaican short story collection Kingston Noir (Akashic Books, 2012).

He continued to write for the Observer, Spectator and Financial Times while researching his book Darkness in Tallinn, 1939-1945: World War in Europe’s Forgotten City, due to be published by Faber. In addition to writing, Thomson has edited Articles of Faith: The Collected Tablet Journalism of Graham Greene (Signal Books, 2006). He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Non-Fiction at the University of East Anglia, and lives in London with his wife and children.

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Image Credit: Caroline Forbes

Ian Thomson

Non-fiction writer


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  • University College London, 2009–2011