Ian Thomson was born in London in 1961, but grew up in New York, where his father worked for a bank. His mother, a Baltic émigrée, came to England in 1947. He was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and in the 1980s he worked in Rome as a teacher, translator, journalist and writer. He contributes regularly to the national broadsheets and weekly magazines, among them the Observer, Times Literary Supplement and the Spectator. His first important book, Bonjour Blanc: A Journey Through Haiti (1992), considered a “great and abiding classic” by the film director Jonathan Demme, was listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Award. His biography of Primo Levi, Primo Levi: A Life (2002), took 10 years to write and won the Royal Society of Literature’s W.H.Heinemann Award. In 2005 Ian Thomson returned to the West Indies to write The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica (2009). Banned in Jamaica for political reasons, the book was awarded the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book Award. Ian Thomson has translated the Sicilian crime writer and essayist Leonardo Sciascia into English, and edited Articles of Faith: The Collected Tablet Journalism of Graham Greene (2006). In addition he has contributed a short story to Kingston Noir (2012). His latest book, Dante’s Divine Comedy (2019), reflects a lifelong interest in Italy.He is currently working on a book about his mother’s birthplace in the Baltic during World War II.


Ian Thomson is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Non-Fiction at UEA. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has lectured in universities in the United States, France, Italy and London. He was one of the judges for the RLS Somerset Maugham prize in 2018 and for the Ondaatje Prize in 2019.

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