Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 12:35 UK

Greatest writers find their voice

Virginia Woolf

Rare recordings of some of the 20th Century's greatest writers are to be released for the first time.

John Steinbeck, Arthur Conan Doyle, Evelyn Waugh, Arthur Miller and Vladimir Nabokov are some of the voices on new CDs from the British Library.

The collection also includes the sole surviving recording of Virginia Woolf in its entirety for the first time.

Richard Fairman of the British Library said the audio provided a "fascinating insight" into the authors' lives.

Spoken Word: British Writers and American Writers are new additions to the library's series of literary spoken word CDs.

They feature recordings of 30 British and 27 US writers and include many previously unpublished recordings.

Russian roulette

They include Woolf, Steinbeck, Miller, Noel Coward, Harold Pinter, Daphne du Maurier, E M Forster, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and P G Wodehouse.

Greene describes playing Russian roulette as a boy, and Wodehouse talks about his most famous characters Jeeves and Wooster.

John Stienbeck

Sherlock Holmes creator Conan Doyle can be heard explaining the importance of spiritualism.

The majority of the recordings on the three CD set, American Writers, are BBC radio broadcasts in which the writers talk about their careers, their art and politics.

The collection also includes private recordings and US radio broadcasts.

Raymond Chandler is interviewed by James Bond author Ian Fleming, John Steinbeck discusses his reasons for writing The Grapes of Wrath, and Arthur Miller talks about his marriage to actress Marilyn Monroe.

Mr Fairman said: "These two new British Library audio collections form the largest survey of historic recordings by English-language authors and playwrights ever published.

"With many previously unpublished BBC recordings selected from the extensive collections of the British Library Sound Archive, these compilations will offer a fascinating insight into the lives and work of these great authors".

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