Tobias Hill

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Tobias Hill
BornTobias Fleet Hill
(1970-03-30)30 March 1970
London, England
Died26 August 2023(2023-08-26) (aged 53)
London, England
  • Poet
  • author
Alma mater University of Sussex
Hannah Donat
(m. 2003)

Tobias Fleet Hill (30 March 1970 – 26 August 2023) was a British poet, essayist, writer of short stories and novelist.



Tobias Hill was born in Kentish Town, in North London, to parents of German Jewish and English extraction; Hill identified as Jewish. [1] His maternal grandfather was the brother of Gottfried Bermann, confidant of Thomas Mann and, as owner of S. Fischer Verlag, German literature's leading publisher-in-exile during the Second World War. [2] Hill's father was a journalist and his mother was a graphic designer. [3] Hill was educated at Hampstead School and the University of Sussex before spending two years teaching in Japan. [4] He lived in Cricklewood, north London.

Hill married Hannah Donat in 2003, and they had one child, Kit. He had a stroke in 2014, which ended his writing career. Hill died from glioblastoma on 26 August 2023, at the age of 53. [1]



Hill's early work appeared in magazines such as Envoi and The Frogmore Papers and published four collections, Year of the Dog (1995), Midnight in the City of Clocks (1996) (influenced by his experience of life in Japan) Zoo (1998) and Nocturne in Chrome & Sunset Yellow (2006). The last of these was described by The Guardian as "A vital, luminous collection... it is rare to come across a collection of poetry that you know with certainty you will still be reading years from now, but for me, this is such a book." [5] Hill's collection of short stories, Skin (1997), was serialised on BBC Radio 4, was shortlisted for the 1998 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize, and won the International PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award.


In 1999, Hill published his debut novel, Underground. [6] Set on the London Underground, this dark, neo-gothic work follows the story of Casimir, a Polish immigrant, as he comes to terms with his personal and national past. Underground won the Betty Trask Prize and the Arts Council Writer's Award.

The Love of Stones (2001), Hill's second novel, garnered wider recognition: it charts the lives of two nineteenth-century Jewish brothers and a contemporary protagonist, Katharine Sterne, whose stories are entwined with that of a jewel known as "The Three Brothers", once owned by Elizabeth I, but lost since the 17th century.

Hill's third novel, The Cryptographer, was published in 2003. A sparer narrative than The Love of Stones, it tells the story of a global financial disaster, examining issues of trust and secrecy. The Cryptographer is set in the near future, but comprises a shadow portrait of the enigmatic historical figure John Law. In December 2003 the Hay Festival showcased the novel as its Book of the Year. It was described by the author A. S. Byatt as evidence of "one of the two or three most original and interesting young novelists working in Britain today". [7]

Tobias Hill's fourth novel, The Hidden, was published to acclaim in January 2009. In the Guardian, the author James Lasdun called it "an elaborate mystery along the lines of The Magus or The Secret History , and a sustained meditation on the special ethics of terrorism in ancient and modern times...You don't often see writing as lively as this." [8] The author Kamila Shamsie, in The Observer, wrote: "Apart from everything else that this novel is — a beautifully paced thriller, a meditation on loss, guilt, obsession — it is also one of the finest novels written so far about this, our age of terror." [9]

Other work

Hill wrote one book for children, The Lion Who Ate Everything, illustrated by Michael Foreman, twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. He has also written for The Times , The Observer , The Independent , The Guardian and Time Out . From 1998 to 2001, he was the Sunday Telegraph's rock critic. He has edited the works of other writers, including Edgar Allan Poe. [10] In 2012, Hill, along with Brooke Magnanti, acted as a judge for Fleeting Magazine's Six-Word Short Story Prize. [11]

Critical perspective

Amongst contemporary British authors, Hill is unusual in achieving recognition as a poet, a novelist and a writer of short stories. In 2003 he was nominated as one of the best young writers in Britain by the Times Literary Supplement . In 2004 he was selected as one of the country's Next Generation poets. [3] His novels have been published worldwide.

Secrecy, revelation and obsession are recurrent themes in Hill's fiction. In Skin, a worker at London Zoo investigates the disappearance of dead animals at the hands of an eerie figure, the Featherman, finally discovering his formalin-drenched lair in Camden Town's derelict stable-yards. [12] In Underground, Casimir's physical explorations of London's subterranean echo his mental rediscovery of a traumatic childhood in Poland. In The Love of Stones, Katharine Sterne devotes her life to a search for a legendary lost jewel, the Three Brethren. The same motifs are used to powerful effect in The Hidden, and indeed the novel is prefaced with a quotation from John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton: "Every thing secret degenerates".

Awards, residencies and associations

Hill has held writing residencies at Newnham College, Cambridge, Sussex University, and Eton College. [13] In 1999 he was the inaugural Poet in Residence at London Zoo. [14] In 2009 he became inaugural Programme Director of the Faber Academy. [15] In 2012 he was appointed senior lecturer on the MA Creative Writing Course at Oxford Brookes University. [16]

His awards include an Eric Gregory Award in 1995, the Ian St James Award in 1997, and the Pen/Macmillan Silver Pen Award in 1997. [17] He was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 2002 and 2004, and for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2004.


Source: [1]


  1. 1 2 3 Shamsie, Kamila (13 September 2023). "Tobias Hill obituary". The Guardian . Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  2. "Books: Languages in Exile - TIME". 22 June 2010. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  3. 1 2 "Tobias Hill: 'During the last novel, it was so difficult that I just caved in because I was so hungry to write poetry'". . 28 February 2014.
  4. "Tobias Hill". Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  5. "Review: Nocturne in Chrome & Sunset Yellow by Tobias Hill". . 26 August 2006.
  6. "Tobias Hill: 'During the last novel, it was so difficult that I just caved in because I was so hungry to write poetry'". The Guardian. 28 February 2014.
  7. Guardian article from Dec 2004, Tobias Hill's poetry workshop
  8. Lasdun, James (10 January 2009). "The horror that was Sparta". The Guardian . Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  9. Shamsie, Kamila (11 January 2009). "The secret history of the Spartans". The Guardian . Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  10. Poe, Edgar Allan; Hill, Tobias (1 January 2007). The Gold Bug. Hesperus Pr. ISBN   978-1843911449.
  11. "The Six-Word Story Prize | fleeting". Archived from the original on 24 November 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  12. [ dead link ]
  13. "School stories". . 5 April 2007.
  14. "Poetry Society". Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  15. "Faber Academy | About, Featured Courses, Success Stories". Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  16. "Tobias Hill appointed as Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing | News". Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  17. "Tobias Hill | British Council Literature". Archived from the original on 2 March 2012.

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