The Blagger's Guide To: Virago

All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week

The publisher Virago is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a free ebook containing 40 pieces of writing by 40 of its authors, all inspired by the number 40.

“Sometimes we publish to entertain, sometimes we publish to give readers the sheer pleasure of beautiful writing,” the publisher tells the Blagger, “sometimes we publish to change the world.” This particular publication is intended as “a thank-you to everyone who has been part of the Virago family over the years”.

Writers whose work appears in the collection include: Maya Angelou, Lisa Appignanesi, Margaret Atwood, Joan Bakewell, Nina Bawden, Susie Boyt, Stella Duffy, Victoria Glendinning, Linda Grant, Claire Messud, Kate Mosse, Chioma Okereke, Frances Osborne, Michele Roberts, Tracey Thorn, Sandi Toksvig, Sarah Waters and Naomi Wolf. The pieces include poetry, short stories, essays, fragments of autobiography, fables and lists.

Virago’s official birthday was 5 July 1973. Its first board meeting was held on 21 June and included Carmen Callil, Rosie Boycott, and Marsha Rowe. Virago was to be “the first mass-market publisher for 52 per cent of the population – women. An exciting new imprint for both sexes in a changing world.” Its aims were, and still are: to put women centre stage; to explore the untold stories of their lives and histories; to break the silence around many women’s experiences; to publish breathtaking new fiction, alongside a rich list of rediscovered classics; and above all to champion women’s talent. 

According to the Chambers Dictionary, a virago is: “A violent or bad-tempered woman; a heroic or man-like woman; an amazon”.

Virago’s first book, Fenwomen by Mary Chamberlain, was published in association with Quartet Books in 1973.

Virago Modern Classics launched in 1978 with  Frost in May by Antonia White. The imprint is dedicated to rediscovering and republishing lost literary gems including, recently, Mary McCarthy’s The Group – a satire about eight college graduates in 1930s Manhattan.

In 1979, Virago published Angela Carter’s first non-fiction book, The Sadeian Woman, and in 1984 the first UK edition of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

By its 20th birthday in 1993, with Harriet Spicer as MD and Lennie Goodings as publisher, Virago’s list had grown from 11 books to nearly 100 and its staff from three to 19. In 1995, the company was sold to Little, Brown.

In 2000, Margaret Atwood won the Man Booker Prize for the Virago-published The Blind Assassin.

By its 30th birthday, Virago had a phenomenon on its hands in the form of Sarah Waters, whose Tipping the Velvet it published in 1997. By 2013, Waters had been shortlisted for the Orange and Man Booker prizes for Fingersmith and won The South Bank Show Award for Literature. In 2004, three of the six Orange shortlisted titles were published by Virago: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire and Gillian Slovo’s The Ice Road.

Virago is 40: A Celebration is available in different formats through Amazon, Apple, and all other ebook retailers allowing free downloads.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?