Opera North Projects

Hilary Mantel – Shaking Hands with Satan

From rumours that Anne Boleyn sold her soul for her crown to the Faustian pacts of the technology age, Hilary Mantel investigates the history of the human relationship with the devil.

The double Man Booker Prize-winning author (Wolf HallBring up the Bodies) says that whilst growing up, the devil was a vital presence in her own life and so it was only natural that he should feature in her novels. In this specially commissioned talk, she traces the footsteps of the devil in her life, her fiction and in today’s world.

A talk by Hillary Mantel

With live music from violinist David le Page

Commissioned by Opera North Projects.

‘It’s difficult now to convey the way that our emerging imaginations and intellects were supersaturated with religion, or, as I say, superstition. Soon after I went to school, the sneery deep voice inside me went quiet. For a few years I believed everything was told and believed it with great passion. I talked to God and I waited patiently to hear back. And that habit of mind, of watchful waiting, of patience, of passive attention, has served me well in later life. But when I was 6 my life changed. We left the safety  of my grandparents’ house, where 3 generations had lived together, and moved up the hill into a house of our own, and that was where, the following year, my problems with the devil began.’

(Extract from Shaking Hands with Satan by Hilary Mantel)


Hillary Mantel CBE was born in Derbyshire, 1952 and studied Law at LSE and Sheffield University. She worked as a social worker, and lived in Botsowana and Saudi Arabia before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. She has published numerous books, including the memoir Giving up the Ghost (2003), and was the first woman to be awarded the Man Booker Prize twice for Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring up the Bodies (2012). She was awarded a CBE in 2006. In 2007 she wrote and presented 'Touching Hands With The Lost', her very personal take on the Orpheus myth and Opera North's production of Monteverdi's opera.

David le Page started playing the violin aged seven in his native Guernsey. He is leader of the Orchestra of the Swan, in Stratford-upon-Avon and teaches at Birmingham Conservatoire, as well as has appearing at major festivals in the UK and working with a diverse selection of artists and ensembles.

Your reaction

‘Mantel... instinctively grabs for the reachably real’ The New Yorker

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