Shirley Hazzard, the "Australian-born author of an acclaimed if small portfolio of fiction peopled with characters whose lives, much like her own, toss them up far from home," died December 12, the New York Times reported. She was 85. Her novel The Transit of Venus won the 1980 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, but more than 20 years elapsed before she published The Great Fire, which won the 2003 National Book Award for fiction. Author Thomas Mallon observed that her devoted fans had begrudged her "even the time she spent on a brief memoir of her friendship with Graham Greene--Greene on Capri--published in 2000."
Noting that literary success came to her "without the usual blizzard of rejection slips," the Times wrote that Hazzard's "long association with the New Yorker began with the first story she submitted, 'Woollahra Road,' which had been fished from the slush pile by the fiction editor William Maxwell and published in 1961."
Her other books include People in Glass Houses (1967), Countenance of Truth: The United Nations and the Waldheim Case (1990), Cliffs of Fall (1963) and The Evening of the Holiday (1966).
She also collaborated with her husband, Francis Steegmuller, on The Ancient Shore: Dispatches From Naples (2000). In an interview, Hazzard said that Italy was her magic place where "the mysteries remain important: the accidental quality of existence, the poetry of memory, the impassioned life that is animated by awareness of eventual death