Expert in tainted passion

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Josephine Hart, the Irish novelist who has died of cancer aged 69, was the author of the bestseller Damage (1990), a savage, shocking novel about passion and betrayal with the now famous line: "Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive."

Hart, who claimed that poets shaped her life, was one of seven children and educated at a Catholic boarding school in Ireland. "I was a word child in a country of word children, where life was language before it was anything else."

After Damage, which told the story of a politician's obsession with his son's girlfriend, she went on to write another five novels. Damage, and her 1992 novel Sin, are to be reissued as Virago Modern Classics later this year, and Josephine felt that was a thrilling tribute.

The Truth About Love (2009) was the only novel that Josephine set in Ireland. Like all her books, it is about passion, but this time, misplaced passion, she believed, for a mythology that asks its people to keep dying for country and cause.

In 1984 Josephine married Maurice (now Lord) Saatchi, the advertising magnate and political adviser, with whom she had a son, Edward. She had another son, Adam, from her first marriage, to Paul Buckleigh.

Though she was hugely sophisticated and glamorous, and no stranger to the benefits of working a room and making connections, the fact that so many were willingly beguiled by her was because of her passionate belief in art. There was something elemental about her.

Her novels show that she was not afraid of big, unruly, raw – savage, even – feelings, the real stuff of human relations. But she was far from being serious and high-minded at all times.

She teased, loved banter, had a great warmth and laughed easily. She gave the world a special appreciation – for poetry and for words – believing that words could make it all worthwhile. She was right, but no small part of that was because she was the one delivering them.

She is survived by her husband and sons.

FULL REVIEW: Josephine Hart obituary (The Guardian)

LINKS

Josephine Hart home page

The Books: “Damage” (Josephine Hart) - The Sheila Variations

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