This is the story of the British novel in the 20th century told by those who know it best – the authors themselves. Plundering the BBC archive, In Their Own Words: British Novelists, produced in partnership with The Open University, reveals Britain’s greatest novelists talking candidly about their life and work.

PG Wodehouse

PG Wodehouse being interviewed [Image: BBC]

The full extent of this resource is surprising: it takes us from late Victorian writers like GK Chesteron, HG Wells and EM Forster (all of whom recorded for the BBC in the 1920s and 1930s) through to Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter and Martin Amis.

It includes the only recording of Virginia Woolf in existence, as well as surprising set-pieces: William Golding addressing a room of primary school pupils about Lord of the Flies; JG Ballard, author of Crash, celebrating the beauty of the motorcar; Kingsley Amis and John Braine in a smoke-filled Soho restaurant discussing the impact of the Second World War on the British novel.

The programme can be seen on BBC Four every Monday from 16 August at 9pm. It is accompanied here on OpenLearn by a whole new way to explore the connections between British writers and the times they worked in (see below).

Find out more

Discover how to study literature and creative writing with The Open University.

Readers on writers: Explore the RED database project.