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Writers are people who have been sidelined by life. I get my revenge in my novels—by handing out hideous fates to those who have offended me. And I usually get away with it

By Hilary Mantel   April 2007

I once set fire to a nun. She had been annoying me since I was ten years old by looking like a horse, and a horse of bad character too: by having long yellow teeth, by being dull and crass and often violent. I’d waited 30-odd years to deal with her, and so when it came it wasn’t a small blaze. Seemingly an instance of spontaneous combustion, it didn’t kill her, but it put her in hospital and caused a lot of gossip in the parish.

I didn’t get the blame, for I was nowhere near the scene. She was…

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